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Assessment Scales in Old Age Psychiatry

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    Assessment Scales in Old Age Psychiatry. by alistair burns, brian lawlor, and sarah craig. (Pp 302, £29.95). Published by Martin Dunitz, London, 1999. IBSN 1-85317-562-5.

    If it moves - measure it. Such is the trend in psychiatry and this has led to a proliferation of assessment scales of variable utility; from the esoteric to the ubiquitous. This book has them all and is, quite genuinely, one of the most useful volumes I have seen for a very long time. It covers everything from the AMTS through the MMSE to the KEW cognitive test. Each scale is presented in full together with a short commentary, critical references and, usefully, an estimated time taken to perform the test together with an address to contact the original author.

    The scales presented are divided into those covering depression, neuropsychiatric assessments, activities of daily living, global assessments, visible assessments, delirium, caregiver assessments and scales for memory function. This organisation, together with a useful and functional index, will make the task of selecting an appropriate scale much easier in the future. Some of these scales are covered by patent law and my only quibble is that it would have been useful to know which instruments can be reproduced and for what purpose without fear of being billed for the privilege. Maybe highlighting such information would give unpatented authors a stimulus to visit their lawyer and therefore increase this deplorable practice.

    This aside, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. By contrast with books that come highly recommended in diverse reviews but remain pristine on your library shelf, if you are ever fortunate enough to get hold of this volume from your institution library then you will, I guarantee, find it well thumbed. For academics, the book is a prayer answered and will become an essential resource in the planning and execution of any clinical research. For clinicians, psychologists, occupational therapists, and other members of the multidisciplinary old age psychiatry team, the collection of so many scales covering all aspects of mental health of elderly people should encourage the use of valid and reliable assessment procedures that enhance rather than detract from good clinical practice. My only question is “Why didn’t somebody do this before”.