The internationally renowned Visiting Nursing Service of New York has decided to trial the Geriatric Anxiety Inventory (GAI), developed at The University of Queensland (UQ), with older people it provides care to in the Greater New York area.

The Visiting Nursing Service of New York was established in 1893 and makes 2 million home care visits annually to more than 130,000 people.

Developed by UQ Associate Professors Nancy Pachana from the School of Psychology and Gerard Byrne from the School of Medicine, the GAI is an instrument for assessing older people for anxiety that has gained exposure on a global scale with the assistance of UniQuest, UQ’s main commercialisation company.

“Anxiety is very prevalent in older people, but with dementia also presenting as a common illness in this group, mood disorders such as anxiety and depression can be overlooked because the symptoms can be very similar,” said Associate Professor Nancy Pachana.

“The more we can do to ensure people are being correctly diagnosed and treated the better.”

The GAI was recently recommended in a new clinical practice guideline published by the US Government’s National Guideline Clearinghouse which has helped stimulate US interest.

The University of Iowa Gerontological Nursing Interventions Research Center produced the guideline on detection and assessment of anxiety in older people, a research project funded by the US National Institutes of Health.

The clinical practice guideline recommends that any person over the age of 60 who exhibits a range of common difficulties experienced by older people should be evaluated for anxiety.

The GAI was the first of five instruments for anxiety screening recommended.

The GAI is a 20-item questionnaire health practitioners administer to older patients as an initial diagnostic tool to indicate anxiety levels. Topics covered include feelings of fearfulness, worry, physical symptoms of anxiety (a nervous stomach, for example), and concerns about the impacts of worry and anxiety.  There is also a 5-item short form version suitable for incorporation in a general mental health assessment process.

Translated into 13 languages and used in at least 20 countries across the world, the GAI was recently used by a major pharmaceutical company to monitor anxiety in patients participating in an international clinical trial of a new form of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).

Associate Professor Nancy Pachana said she was delighted to see use of the GAI being promoted to support better care of older people.

“The exciting thing for Gerard and I is seeing the instrument we developed through our research being used to improve clinical care of older people,” Dr Pachana said.

UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson, said the Gerontological Nursing Interventions Research Center comments provided a valuable endorsement of Australian collaborative research outcome in the field of geriatric mental health.

“UniQuest has helped the researchers take their ideas beyond the readership of a journal article, and bring it to the attention of influential clinicians and healthcare providers, with potentially millions of elderly people benefiting as a result.” Mr Henderson said.

“We are proud to have played a role in the impact GAI is having around the world.”

The GAI is available from

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