Geriatric assessment: An office-based approach

Paul E. Tatum, Shaida Talebreza, Jeanette S. Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Family physicians should be proficient in geriatric assessment because, as society ages, older adults will constitute an increasing proportion of patients. Geriatric assessment evaluates medical, social, and environmental factors that influence overall well-being, and addresses functional status, fall risk, medication review, nutrition, vision, hearing, cognition, mood, and toileting. The Medicare Annual Wellness Visit includes the key elements of geriatric assessment performed by family physicians. Comprehensive geriatric assessment can lead to early recognition of problems that impair quality of life by identifying areas for focused intervention, but a rolling geriatric assessment over several visits can also effectively identify subtle or hidden problems. Assessment should be tailored to patient goals of care and life expectancy. By asking patients and families to self-assess risks using precompleted forms, and by using trained office staff to complete validated assessment tools, family physicians can maximize efficiency by focusing on identified problems. Fall risk can be assessed with a single screening question: “Have you fallen in the past year?” The Beers, STOPP (screening tool of older persons’ prescriptions), and START (screening tool to alert doctors to right treatment) criteria are helpful resources for reviewing the appropriateness of medications in older adults. Screening for depression is recommended when depression care supports are available; this can be performed with a brief two-item screen, the Patient Health Questionnaire-2. Older adults should be screened for unintentional weight loss and malnutrition. Although rates of hearing loss and vision loss increase with age, there is insufficient evidence to recommend screening in asymptomatic individuals. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advises clinicians to assess cognition when there is suspicion of impairment. Urinary incontinence can impair patients’ quality of life, and it can be assessed with a two-question screening tool. Immunizations and advance care planning are also important components of the geriatric assessment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)776-784, 784A-784D
JournalAmerican family physician
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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