a1 Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King's College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, UK
Background: Exercising choice and control over decisions is central to quality of life. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (England and Wales) provides a legal framework to safeguard the rights of people with dementia to make their own decisions for as long as possible. The impact of this on long-term planning has been investigated; everyday decision-making in people's own homes remains unexplored.
Methods: Using a phenomenological approach, we interviewed 12 dyads (one person with dementia + one carer) four times over one year to ascertain experience of decision-making, how decisions were negotiated, and how dynamics changed. Qualitative interviews were conducted in people's own homes, and thematic analysis was applied to transcripts.
Results: Respecting autonomy, decision-specificity and best interests underlay most everyday decisions in this sample. Over time, dyads transitioned from supported decision-making, where person with dementia and carer made decisions together, to substituted decision-making, where carers took over much decision-making. Points along this continuum represented carers’ active involvement in retaining their relative's engagement through providing cues, reducing options, using retrospective information, and using the best interests principle. Long-term spouse carers seemed most equipped to make substitute decisions for their spouses; adult children and friend carers struggled with this.
Conclusions: Carers may gradually take on decision-making for people with dementia. This can bring with it added stresses, such as determining their relative's decision-making capacity and weighing up what is in their best interests. Practitioners and support services should provide timely advice to carers and people with dementia around everyday decision-making, and be mindful how abilities may change.
(Received January 04 2013)
(Reviewed February 04 2013)
(Revised February 12 2013)
(Accepted February 14 2013)
(Online publication March 19 2013)
c1 Correspondence should be addressed to: Kritika Samsi, Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King's College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, UK. Phone: +00 44-20-7848-1665; Fax: +00 44-20-7848-5056. Email: email@example.com.