"Reflections on The Issue of Competence."
One of the most difficult things a person may have to do is decide whether a loved one or friend continues to be capable of making important decisions for themselves. The question of competence frequently comes up when you spend time with an aging loved one and can observe his/her behaviors and abilities. Determining whether an individual can make independent decisions is complicated by the fact that decision making requires a cluster of abilities and falls along a continuum: individuals may be able to make good decisions for themselves about some things but not others (dinner but not finances), and their abilities may vary from day to day (use of medications, illness). This article describes ways to determine whether someone is or is not capable of making decisions and provides an easy to use tool that you can use as a guide to help you begin to determine if an adult can function safely.