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Geriatric ServicesImage of a male doctor talking to an elderly female patient.

Geriatric services are those provided for individuals over the age of 65. This specialization is important as illnesses and medical conditions can affect older people differently than they do the young and middle-aged. A hospital that provides geriatric services has staff members who are specially educated in the care and treatment of older adults. In some hospitals, clinics are available to provide ongoing services.

Hospitals may provide special geriatric units, particularly in the psychiatry department. These units may also provide ongoing out-patient and/or diagnostic services, such as those found in a formal geriatric evaluation program.

Geriatric Evaluation

Why is the evaluation important?
A geriatric evaluation is designed to obtain an accurate diagnosis and develop a plan of action to address the needs of older patients, especially those who have behavioral problems or who have experienced a sudden change in behavior. If you notice gradual, or sudden, changes in your loved one's behavior or ability to perform routine activities, a geriatric evaluation may uncover treatable conditions and/or offer insight into chronic conditions. Often this can help not only the patient but the family as well.

How do I have an evaluation completed?
It is frequently done on an outpatient basis and is usually covered by insurance. Contact your individual insurance carrier for information about your coverage. The complete evaluation process may take many hours to complete and may require more than one visit to the specialists.

Who administers the evaluation?
A multi-disciplinary team of medical professionals completes the evaluation. Physicians who have received additional education and experience in the field of geriatrics are called geriatricians. These physicians may also be certified in other areas such as psychiatry or internal medicine. The benefit to the older person of being treated by a geriatrician is that the geriatrician understands how the body ages and how the aging process affects treatment options.

Evaluation Process

A geriatric evaluation is a multi-step process that can include the following:

  • Medical history – The physician gathers information on the patient's past illnesses and medical treatments, if any, from the patient, family and available medical records.
  • Medical examination – A complete examination may be performed by the physician.
  • Laboratory, EEG or other diagnostic tests – Diagnostic tests may be ordered by the physician to rule out, or identify, specific medical conditions (Sometimes these tests may help the physician identify an illness that is causing changes in behavior that appear dementia-like.)
  • Psychosocial/psychological evaluation – A social worker or psychologist may gather information about the patient's emotional and psychological functioning. A psychologist may also administer tests to evaluate the patient's mental functioning.
  • Occupational activity evaluation – An occupational therapist and/or physical therapist may assess the patient's ability to complete activities of daily living, such as using the telephone, dressing, managing money, fixing a meal, etc.
  • Neuropsychological evaluation – A neurologist may assess those areas of mental functioning that appear to be impaired, such as memory, reasoning, coordination and writing.

Evaluation Results

After completing all testing, the team will meet to discuss the findings and develop recommendations to present to the patient and family. The recommendations should address the medical and psychosocial needs of the patient and describe available community support services.