Geriatric Assessment

What is a geriatric assessment?

A geriatric assessment is an in-depth exam that is usually done when an older person’s health or mental or physical abilities change.

The assessment covers not only medical problems, but also the ability to live at home, think and make decisions, and have a good quality of life. The exam can help figure out what may be causing problems, what kind of help is needed, who will provide care, and where the older person might live.

What is done during the assessment?

A team of healthcare professionals will evaluate these areas:

  • Physical health. The assessment includes:
    • Medical history, physical exam, and lab tests
    • A review of the person’s diet, medicines (prescription and nonprescription), supplements, and natural remedies
    • Vision and hearing exams
    • Checks of how well the person can move his or her arms, shoulders, legs, and feet
    • Bowel and bladder control
    • Walking and balance
    • Strength
    • Sleep habits
  • Mental health. The exam checks for mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety. The person will also be asked about the use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.
  • Social support. This part of the assessment checks for different kinds of support:
    • Someone to talk to and who provides emotional support
    • People to provide services, supplies, or practical help such as paying bills
    • People to give advice and information to help the person solve problems
    • Someone to call in case of emergency
  • Ability to do daily activities. The assessment includes:
    • Bathing, brushing teeth, using the bathroom, and dressing
    • Getting in and out of bed, walking, or using a wheelchair
    • Eating
    • Using the telephone
    • Driving or using public transportation
    • Shopping, cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry
    • Taking medicines
    • Handling money
  • Mental status. This exam is a series of questions designed to test the person’s ability to:
    • Pay attention
    • Remember
    • Think things through and make decisions
    • Speak and understand what is said
    • Read and write
  • Personal safety. If safety issues in the older adult’s home are a concern, a professional may:
    • Make sure the neighborhood is safe.
    • Check for door locks, window locks, and fire extinguishers and make sure the older adult is able to use them.
    • Check for safe lighting, stairs with handrails, and nonskid floors and walkways.
    • Check whether bedrooms, bathroom, telephones, and the laundry area are easy for the person to use.
    • Look in cupboards and the refrigerator for the amounts and quality of food.
    • Suggest an alert device that makes it easy to call for help in an emergency.

The healthcare team will look for any problems the person is having, and see what might be done to prevent more problems. The assessment gives everyone a picture of what the older adult can do safely. It also shows where help is needed. After an assessment is complete, the healthcare provider, caregivers, and older adult can develop a plan of care.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-06-25
Last reviewed: 2014-06-24
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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