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Instruments for comprehensive needs assessment in individuals with cognitive complaints, mild cognitive impairment or dementia: a systematic review


R. Schmid, Memory Clinic of the Geriatric Clinic, City Hospital Waid, Zürich, Switzerland. E-mail:

M. Martin, Institute of Psychology, Department of Gerontopsychology, University of Zurich, Zürich, Switzerland. E-mail:



In recent years, it has become more common to complement the objective assessment of symptoms with an assessment of individual needs patterns that are created by the individual pattern of symptoms. However, little is known on needs patterns in individuals with subjective cognitive impairment, mild cognitive impairment and dementia. Thus, on the basis of an analysis of the development of needs in the course of cognitive decline, we provide an overview of the existing needs assessment instruments with respect to feasibility, validity and reliability.


We conducted a literature search in PsycINFO and PubMed including all publications up to September 2009. We included needs assessment instruments for use in older individuals with mental or cognitive disorders and dementia.


We identified 17 needs assessment instruments for individuals with mental disorders, cognitive impairment or dementia. The analysis of selected articles demonstrated a wide range of needs indicators within different subgroups. Validity and reliability range between moderate and good.


Even though a wide range of needs assessment instruments is available, most instruments assess the needs of individuals with subjective cognitive impairment, mild cognitive impairment and dementia on a general level rather than on a more concrete level that may serve better to inform interventions for this growing population. In addition, we suggest basing the development of instruments firmly on an adequate theoretical framework and standardised procedural guidelines. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.