Judge gives guidance on interpreting behaviour of elderly people with dementia

A judge has given guidance on how the behaviour of elderly people with dementia might be interpreted – in a bid to help relatives with welfare responsibilities.

People whose freedom of movement is lawfully restricted in care homes because of mental illness have the right to mount a legal challenge in a specialist court if they feel that their human right to liberty is being unfairly breached.

But lawyers say people with welfare responsibilities for sick elderly people can find it difficult to interpret behaviour, leaving them unsure whether to ask specialist Court of Protection judges to consider cases.

Lawyers say it can be hard for relatives to know whether what people with dementia say and do are symptoms of mental illness or genuine expressions of dissatisfaction and a desire to leave care homes.

Mr Justice Baker has given guidance in a ruling after analysing five test cases at a hearing in the Court of Protection – where judges analyse issues relating to people who might lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.

He said in the ruling – delivered at a hearing London – that people should consider whether people with dementia had attempted to walk out of care homes and whether they had packed bags.

The judge said the regularity and consistency of complaints should also be borne in mind.

His ruling is likely to be published in the near future.

Mr Justice Baker said the test cases featured five elderly people who lived in the west of England.

He said no-one involved could be identified.

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