New health assessment tool for older adults hailed a success

The method used to assess the medical, rehabilitation and support needs of older residents wanting to live in their home rather than an aged care facility is now much improved says Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) health of older people senior portfolio manager Andrea Bunn.
Mrs Bunn says a comprehensive geriatric assessment tool called inteRAI Home Care is now giving the WDHB a reliable, valid assessment of older adults’ health and support needs.
“In the past, the support needs assessment we used was ‘homegrown’ and therefore inconsistent, at times unreliable and very much dependent on the thoroughness and skill of the assessor,” Mrs Bunn says.
“Having a tool that’s used nationally and internationally immediately raises the standard of assessment giving older adults and their families confidence that their needs are really being understood.
“Research shows very clearly that the inteRAI Home Care assessment tool is enabling people wanting to remain in their homes to do so for much longer. It’s a tool that can identify the opportunities to improve older adults’ health.
“It might identify that a person is visually impaired or that a person requires a handrail on the bath. Once these needs are recognised and provided for, that person could remain in their own home.”
InteRai Home Care is a government initiative which DHBs have been rolling out nationwide since 2009. The Whanganui DHB began using it early this year and clinical staff working with older adults say the improvements are noticeable, Mrs Bunn says.
 “In time, information gathered from the assessment process we’re now using will enable district health boards to improve their long-term planning for the older adult population which as we know is increasing significantly each year. This in itself will be hugely valuable for the health sector.”