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Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment


Richard G. Stefanacci

, DO, MGH, MBA, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson College of Population Health

Reviewed/Revised May 2022 | Modified Sep 2022
Topic Resources

Comprehensive geriatric assessment is a multidimensional process designed to assess the functional ability, health (physical, cognitive, and mental), and socioenvironmental situation of older people.

The comprehensive geriatric assessment A Geriatric Assessment Instrument A Geriatric Assessment Instrument specifically and thoroughly evaluates functional and cognitive abilities, social support, financial status, and environmental factors, as well as physical and mental health. Ideally, a regular examination of older patients incorporates many aspects of the comprehensive geriatric assessment, making the 2 approaches very similar. Assessment results are coupled with sustained individually tailored interventions (eg, rehabilitation, education, counseling, supportive services).

The cost of geriatric assessment limits its use. Thus, this assessment may be used best mainly in high-risk older patients, such as the frail or chronically ill (eg, identified via mailed health questionnaires or interviews in the home or meeting places). Family members may also request a referral for geriatric assessment. However, in the US, the Annual Wellness Examination is offered as a covered benefit under Medicare and includes the main components of a comprehensive geriatric assessment and provides a detailed health risk assessment and personalized prevention plan.

Assessment can have the following benefits:

  • Improved care and clinical outcomes

  • Greater diagnostic accuracy

  • Improved functional and mental status

  • Reduced mortality

  • Decreased use of nursing homes and acute care hospitals

  • Greater satisfaction with care

If older patients are relatively healthy, a standard medical evaluation may be appropriate.

Comprehensive geriatric assessment is most successful when done by a geriatric interdisciplinary team Geriatric Interdisciplinary Teams Every 4 years, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) updates its strategic plan and defines its mission and goals. The HHS strategic plan for 2022 to 2026 includes the following... read more (typically, a geriatrician, nurse, social worker, and pharmacist). Usually, assessments are done in an outpatient setting. However, patients with physical or mental impairments and chronically ill patients may require inpatient assessment.


Assessment Domains

The principal domains assessed are

  • Functional ability: Ability to do activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental ADLs (IADLs) are assessed. ADLs include eating, dressing, bathing, transferring between the bed and a chair, using the toilet, and controlling bladder and bowel. IADLs enable people to live independently and include preparing meals, doing housework, taking drugs, going on errands, managing finances, and using a telephone.

  • Physical health: History and physical examination should include problems common among older people (eg, problems with vision, hearing, continence, gait, and balance).

  • Cognition and mental health: Several validated screening tests for cognitive dysfunction (eg, mental status examination Examination of Mental Status Examination of Mental Status ) and for depression (eg, Geriatric Depression Scale Geriatric Depression Scale (Short Form) Geriatric Depression Scale (Short Form) , Hamilton Depression Scale) can be used.

  • Socioenvironmental situation: The patient’s social interaction network, available social support resources, special needs, and the safety and convenience of the patient’s environment are determined, often by a nurse or social worker. Such factors influence the treatment approach used. A checklist can be used to assess home safety.

Standardized instruments make evaluation of these domains more reliable and efficient (see table A Geriatric Assessment Instrument A Geriatric Assessment Instrument A Geriatric Assessment Instrument ). They also facilitate communication of clinical information among health care practitioners and monitoring of changes in the patient’s condition over time.


More Information

The following English-language resource may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of this resource.

  • Medicare: Annual Wellness Examination (AWE): A US resource that includes the main components of a comprehensive geriatric assessment and provides a detailed health risk assessment and personalized prevention plan

NOTE: This is the Professional Version. CONSUMERS: View Consumer Version
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