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Practical Guide to Elder Abuse and Neglect Law in Canada

Glossary of Terms

Capacity: Capacity refers to a person’s ability to make decisions. Capacity hinges on a person having the ability to understand relevant information and apply it to their situation. Different kinds of decisions, such as the ability to make a will, get divorced, or make a health care decision, are subject to different capacity standards. These standards are set out in statutes or the common law (court decisions). Capacity is also called mental capacity or mental capability. A person who has capacity for a decision is sometimes referred to as a capable person.

Consent: Consent is an informed, timely and voluntary agreement by a person with capacity to make that decision.

Undue influence: Undue influence occurs when a person is pressured to perform some action, such as changing their will. When undue influence occurs, the action or decision will reflect the  wishes or intentions of the influencer, not the true intentions of the person creating the will. For more on Undue Influence see BC Law Institute, Recommended Practices for Wills Practitioners Related to Potential Undue Influence: A Guide

Supported Decision-Making: Supported decision-making is a voluntary relationship that provides an alternative to substitute decision-making. Supportive decision-makers help people to make their own decisions. Supportive decision-makers provide support suitable to a unique person’s needs. They can, for example, help people understand information, communicate their needs and wishes, research options, and follow through on their choices. In some provinces and territories a person can formally appoint a supportive decision-maker, generally by signing a legal document.