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Guideline recommends early assessment of elderly

14 October 2003 Media Statement

New guideline recommends early assessment of older people

Associate Health Minister Ruth Dyson today launched a new guideline for assessing older people’s needs, developed by the NZ Guidelines Group.

“Statistics show that older New Zealanders have high rates of avoidable hospital admissions and disability. Much of this could be averted by a cross-agency approach to early intervention, which is the focus of the new guideline, Assessment Processes for Older People. This is particularly important, with the rising number of older people in the population.

“The guideline focuses on people who provide health and social care and support for older people working together to help older people receive support in a way that meets their needs and encourages their ongoing participation and control of their own lives.”

Ms Dyson said the guideline provided a nationally consistent process for assessing the needs of older people.

“The guideline identifies the items to be covered by a national assessment tool, including risk factors, physical and mental health and functioning, social functioning and the presence and roles of carers. In other countries, when older people are assessed in this way, research shows that there are dramatic improvements in their health and wellbeing.”

“The guideline recommends that the new approach should be used for the older general population from the age of 65, and for Maori, Pacific peoples and people with disabilities from the age of 55. Because of the importance of the assessment, all assessors will need to receive specialist training. This will be developed as part of an integrated implementation plan.”

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Ruth Dyson said she was pleased that ACC, the Ministry of Health and the district health boards had already begun working together, using the guideline to develop a more integrated system for the assessment and delivery of health and disability support services for older people.

The full text of the guideline, ‘Assessment Processes for Older People,’ is on line at


Who developed the ‘Assessment Processes for Older People’ guideline?
The guideline has been developed by an independent group, the New Zealand Guidelines Group, over the last two years, in conjunction with older people, and a wide range of health and disability service providers. The guideline development team was chaired by Dr Sally Keeling, lecturer in Older People’s Health at Christchurch’s School of Medicine and Health Science. It reviewed hundreds of national and international research evidence to reach a series of recommendations for making assessment of older people effective, timely and equitable.

What is an assessment process?
This guideline is about the process for identifying older people’s needs for health and social care and support. The needs are assessed by trained assessors who will proactively identify the needs of older people, so that appropriate interventions can be initiated.

Who should be assessed, and when?
People in the general population aged 65 years and over, and Maori, Pacific people and people with pre-existing disabilities aged 55 and over, should be assessed when they come into contact with health care or social services, or when an assessment is requested by carers, family or professionals involved in their care and support.

What sort of assessment should be done, and by whom?
The evidence compiled by the Guidelines Group was very clear that assessment of older people should be multidimensional, covering their mental and physical health, functional and social well-being across usually separate disciplines within health, disability and social care. Assessment should also be comprehensive – that is, in sufficient depth to detect need for specialist input (if any). Assessment should be done by specialist trained assessors supported by multidisciplinary teams.


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