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 personâ€™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
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
Using the telephone
Driving or using public transportation
Shopping, cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry
Mental status. This exam is a series of questions designed to test the personâ€™s ability to:
Think things through and make decisions
Speak and understand what is said
Read and write
Personal safety. If safety issues in the older adultâ€™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.
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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.
Comprehensive geriatric assessment for older adults admitted to hospital: meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Graham Ellis. BMJ. 2011; 343: d6553. Published online Oct 27, 2011. doi: 10.1136/bmj.d6553