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The Screening Every Older Adult Should Get

doctor talking with older adults

Advances in medicine and nutrition have made it commonplace for people to live to be 80, 90 or even more than 100 years old. While longevity is cause for celebration, it can also present significant challenges for your elderly loved ones.

As you age, you face a variety of health issues, says geriatric medicine specialist Parisa Khatibi, MD. Some of these are the inevitable slowing down of your body, but other concerns – such as mental sharpness – can be sensitive topics to discuss.

A Geriatric Assessment Can Help

One way to help foster the conversation with your elderly family member is through a Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment, which is offered through University Hospitals Foley ElderHealth Center, part of University Hospitals Center for Lifelong Health. The screening is appropriate for anyone ages 65 and older who is showing signs of confusion, depression or physical limitations, as well as for someone who appears to be functioning well.

“It’s a multidisciplinary diagnostic and treatment process that we use to identify the medical, psychological, social and functional limitations of an older person in order to have a coordinated plan to maximize their overall health,” Dr. Khatibi says.

By examining your loved one's physical, social and environmental factors, a geriatric assessment team can uncover illnesses and conditions that are potentially treatable or chronic, degenerative mental and/or physical conditions that require recommendations for immediate and long-term needs.

What Happens During an Assessment

To go through the screening, you can either obtain a referral from your primary care physician or self-refer. During the screening, you or your aging family member will spend one hour with a physician and 30 minutes each with a social worker and nurse, all of whom are trained in geriatric care.

The assessment covers areas such as:

  • Can you perform daily living tasks, such as cooking, bathing, or dressing?
  • Are you showing signs of memory loss, confusion and/or depression?
  • Do you have social support systems in place, especially family and friends?
  • What is your stability like and/or your falling history?
  • Has your vision or hearing changed?
  • Are you taking your medications correctly?
  • Can you manage your finances?
  • Do you have up-to-date advanced directives in place?
  • Is your living environment safe and clutter-free, and does it include working fire alarms, etc.?
  • Are you sleeping well?

Taking the Next Steps

Afterward, the team prepares a detailed report containing their findings and recommendations. Depending on the results – and, in some cases, following additional testing – you, your elderly loved one and/or your caregiver may return to go over the results. The geriatric team may also provide next-step recommendations.

“We include the social worker in the assessment during the first visit and in follow-ups, as needed, because, for instance, if the patient needs to move to an assisted living facility, the social worker can help,” Dr. Khatibi says.

Often, memory impairment might cause you or your loved one to skip or double-dose their medications, which is a safety issue that can lead to additional problems.

“We explain how to properly take medication and how the family needs to be involved,” she says.

In addition to the assessment, the Foley ElderHealth Center provides programs to help you deal with geriatric health care challenges. These include caregiver educational sessions and information and resources to help you manage the stress of caring for an elderly person.

Related links

Many illnesses that commonly affect the older adult are treatable or manageable with medications or modifications in diet, exercise and other daily living behaviors. Learn more about University Hospitals' specially designed senior assessment program.