When Should You Push For a Geriatric Assessment?

Eileen Beal | July 6, 2015

Taking a team approach can net the best results for your parents.

Navigating the maze of eldercare options can be challenging, but it doesn’t need to be. A geriatric assessment can help you figure out the level of care your loved one needs.

“The phrase geriatric assessment is a bit confusing,” says Norbert “Bert” Rahl, director of mental health services at the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging. Sometimes an assessment looks at just one issue that’s causing problems for a loved one. For instance:


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To get the whole-person “picture” of what’s going on, Rahl suggests a comprehensive geriatric assessment. This assessment will look at all aspects of your loved one’s physical and mental health and how they are interacting and overlapping in their life.

A comprehensive assessment can be coordinated by your loved one’s primary care physician, but since these assessments require the skills and expertise of a team of specialists, they are best coordinated by a geriatrician. A geriatrician is a specialized physician who is trained in the care and treatment of older adults. Ask for a referral from your loved one’s primary care physician or find a geriatrician in your area.

Who’s On Your Geriatric Team?

The composition of the geriatric team will vary depending on your individual’s:

In addition to the physician who is doing the physical exam and coordinating the assessment, the team might include the following professionals:

“The setting for an assessment depends on what triggers the decision to get one in the first place,” notes Rahl.

Avoid Crisis Management

When the trigger to get a geriatric assessment is a crisis, for instance a fall, stroke or car crash, the assessment is usually done in the hospital.

“In a crisis situation, the patient is often disoriented, exhausted and in pain,” says Rahl. “The assessment might be rushed and not as thorough as it could be. Making things worse, the patient may be in denial that they even need an assessment.”

The better alternative is to schedule an in-office assessment when you and your loved one decide it’s needed because of physical or behavioral changes.

There Are Many Benefits to an Office-Based Assessment.

For one, an office-based assessment is not done in a crisis situation, so the lab work, physical exam, mobility tests, mental and cognitive screens and other evaluations can be spread out over days or even weeks. Your loved one has chosen to get a geriatric assessment, and has not had the decision made for him or her, so they will be more cooperative. The assessment may also evaluate your needs as a caregiver.

Secondly, because the office-based assessment is done proactively, rather than reactively, it will provide results, insights, options and suggestions that can be used to plan for future needs and care.

Dealing with the growing list of caregiving concerns can be overwhelming. Next month, we’ll look at when to involve family members or other caregiving helpers.

Related Articles

Do You Need a Geriatric Care Manager?

The Value of Social Workers in Long Term Senior Care

7 Easy Tips for Healthy Aging

Copyright© 2014 Next Avenue, a division of Twin Cities Public Television, Inc.

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