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Supported decision‐making and mental capacity assessment in care homes: a qualitative study

Jayes, Mark ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0371-7811, Austin, Lynn and Brown, Laura JE (2022) Supported decision‐making and mental capacity assessment in care homes: a qualitative study. Health and Social Care in the Community, 30 (4). e1061-e1069. ISSN 0966-0410

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Abstract

Up to 75% of UK care home residents may lack the mental capacity to make certain decisions (Wade, Clinical Rehabilitation, 2019, 33, 1561–1570). Care home staff need evidence-based tools to help them assess residents’ mental capacity and provide decision-making support (NICE, Decision-making and mental capacity NICE guideline NG108, 2018). The Mental Capacity Assessment Support Toolkit (MCAST) was designed to support multidisciplinary healthcare staff to prepare, complete and document legally compliant mental capacity assessments. MCAST has not yet been trialled in care homes. This study used a descriptive qualitative design to: (a) understand the current challenges faced by care home staff when supporting residents to make decisions and participate in mental capacity assessments; (b) explore staff members’ support needs in this context and (c) to identify if and how the toolkit could be adapted for use in care homes. A purposive sample of 29 staff working as managers (n = 18), nurses (n = 7) and care assistants (n = 4) across five care homes in North West England participated in five semi-structured focus groups between May and July 2019. Data from the focus group transcripts were analysed thematically (Braun & Clarke, Qualitative Research in Psychology, 2006, 3, 77–101). Five main themes were identified: (a) involvement of residents in decision-making; (b) approaches to mental capacity assessment; (c) working with residents with communication difficulties; (d) feelings about practice and (e) responses to MCAST. Participants appeared competent and confident about supporting decision-making and assessing capacity, but recognised the complexity of this area of practice, and identified a need for further support. They reported a range of challenges, including accessing support from speech and language therapists for residents with communication needs. They responded positively to the toolkit and were keen to use it in practice. This study suggests that care home staff would benefit from, and welcome, support to develop their practice. Furthermore, MCAST appears usable in this context and formal feasibility testing is justified.

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