Introduction: The International Psychogeriatric Association Task Force on Mental Health Services in Long-Term Care Facilities seeks to improve care of persons in residential aged care facilities (RACFs). As part of that effort the current authors have contributed an overview and discussion of the uses of brief screening instruments in RACFs. Methods: While no current guidelines on the use of screening instruments in nursing homes were found, relevant extant guidelines were consulted. The literature on measurement development, testing standards, psychometric considerations and the nursing home environment were consulted. Results: Cognitive, psychiatric, behavioral, functional and omnibus screening instruments are described at a category level, along with specifics about their use in a RACF environment. Issues surrounding the selection, administration, interpretation and uses of screening instruments in RACFs are discussed. Issues of international interest (such as translation of measures) or clinical concern (e.g. impact of severe cognitive decline on assessment) are addressed. Practical points surrounding who can administer, score and interpret such screens, as well as their psychometric and clinical strengths more broadly, are articulated. Conclusions: Guidelines for use of screening instruments in the RACF environment are offered, together with broad recommendations concerning the appropriate use of brief screening instruments in RACFs. Directions for future research and policy directions are outlined, with particular reference to the international context. © 2010 International Psychogeriatric Association.