We sat around one of the dining rooms in one of our senior centers while Francy, a lively, vivacious woman of 83 expounded a bit on life.
“Life,” she said, pausing for effect, “is all about what you need and if you can get that. You need love, but can you find it? You need food, so how to get it? You need a raise, but do you have the guts to ask for it? And right now, I need to use the ladies room, and I need a push.” We laughed as her daughter took her across the hall.
There was a certain bar room philosophy there, but there was also a lot of truth. Throughout life, we’re confronted with what we need to make it through the day and our ability to get it. For aging adults, those abilities can decide whether or not they can live independently while aging in place.
And more and more, aging adults can expect a geriatric care assessment to give an accurate, thorough, and comprehensive look at how they can balance their needs with their abilities. Just as Francy knew what she needed, a geriatric care assessment can do the same for any aging adult.
Defining the Geriatric Care Assessment
So what exactly is the geriatric care assessment?
A geriatric care assessment is a multi-disciplinary exercise that tests mental, physical, emotional, and psychological health, as well as assesses functionality, living conditions, socio-economic environment, social circles, family involvement, and everything else that goes into determining quality of life.
A geriatric care assessment can determine quality of life and provide a framework to sustain and improve that quality. It can be a detailed look at what aging adults do every day, their abilities, and what families and loved ones need to do to provide maximum comfort and, if possible independence.
These tests are often administered when an older adult is moving into a home or care facility, but that isn’t the only time they can or should be given. They can also be given by a physician if a potential ailment is noticed. If you are considering hiring a caregiver or looking into the logistics of aging in place, arranging a geriatric care assessment with your primary care provider or geriatric physician is a great way to know the challenges and possibilities of living at home.
It’s also important to know that there is no one assessment template followed by all. Different doctors and institutions have their own standards, but it boils down to one thing: How well is an aging adult able to take care of themselves, and what help will they need to undergo the basic and higher necessities of life?
Why a Geriatric Care Assessment Is Important
There are a million tiny little aspects of life that influence the larger aspects we need to get by. And as we age, these abilities evolve and sometimes degrade in ways that are either subtle or overt.
A geriatric care assessment creates a comprehensive matrix for determining treatment and, follow-up plans, long-term care arrangements, caregiver responsibilities, family requirements, primary care and rehabilitative services, medical needs, and more.
Simply put, it is a way to determine how life should be lived moving forward.
What Does a Geriatric Care Assessment Measure?
If you or a loved one is an aging adult, what will an assessment actually measure? Here are some of the items a geriatric care assessment might measure.
- Functional ability. There are two types of functional abilities, according to the Association of American Family Physicians, and a geriatric assessment would look at both. Activities of daily living are things like eating, bathing, dressing, getting to and using the washroom, and the ability to control bladder and bowel functions. Instrumental activities of daily living including activities like preparing meals, medication management, handling a household, and managing finances.
- Physical health
- Socioeconomic health
- Balance/fall prevention (something that can be improved)
- Mental health, including depression, dementia, isolation, and social skills.
There Is No Grade, Only You
Needless to say, there is no “pass/fail” in these exams. A geriatric care assessment shows: where you are in life and what you need to live the life you want. From there, resources can be lined up to help you where you need it, whether that includes financial management, home healthcare assistance, access to Social Day Programs, or well-check calls from Institute on Aging’s Friendship Line if you’re feeling depressed or alone.
Most importantly, what the geriatric care assessment purports to do is answer the biggest question of all: What do you need to still be you? Once you’re better able to answer that question, you can tap into the resources and services available to make that happen.
At Institute on Aging, our mission is to help older adults age in place with dignity and independence. We offer a host of programs and services for older adults, their caregivers, and their families. Connect with us today to learn more.