Senior Assessment Programs Diagnose Older Adult Problems and Suggest Solutions

SLUHN Header Dad wandered out of the house last night dressed only in his pajamas. It was pouring rain. Thanks goodness the neighbor called me. I don’t think he should be living alone.

My friend saw my Mom run a stop sign last week. And sometimes she just stares into space as though she’s not there. I don’t think she should be driving anymore.

When to Consider an Assessment

An assessment may be right, if your loved one has:
  • Experienced a decline in physical health or memory
  • Difficulty maintaining daily living skills
  • Fallen frequently
  • Declined in appearance and hygiene
  • Been taking multiple prescription medications
  • Difficulty managing prescription
  • Difficulty managing finances, such as unable to
    manage a checkbook or has unnecessary purchases

Most of the time my wife is fine but the other day she put the ice cream away in the microwave and last week she couldn’t remember our son’s name. I’m afraid it might be the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

When our loved ones give us clues that there may be something seriously wrong, we’re often at a loss what to do. A senior assessment may be the answer. Senior assessment services bring together health care professionals such as geriatricians, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and social workers to provide comprehensive evaluations and recommendations for senior care.

“Coping with the mental or physical decline of a parent, spouse or friend can be disheartening,” says Anne Grogan, St. Luke’s Network Director for Senior Care. “You may not know where to begin and because you are emotionally attached to your loved one you might not even want to admit that something’s wrong. A senior assessment service can accurately evaluate the situation and provide you with options that best meet your loved one’s needs.”

Before offering suggestions, St. Luke’s Senior Assessment Service completes a thorough evaluation to assess the individual’s physical, mental and emotional health. Although all assessment services differ, a comprehensive evaluation should include:

  • A physical examination including walking and balance assessment
  • Psychological testing including screenings for depression and memory loss
  • Diagnostic Testing, which may include laboratory studies, MRI and X-ray
  • An inventory and analysis of the individual’s medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, as well as any herbal supplements
  • An interview with family members, especially caregivers, to gather information, answer questions and hear concerns

“Sometimes the problem is easily correctable,” Anne says. “For example, did you know that a common urinary track infection can cause confusion in an elderly person and often goes unnoticed because unlike younger people, seniors rarely experience the painful, burning sensation that signals presence of a UTI. By treating the infection with antibiotics, the confusion clears.”

Usually, however, it is more complicated, and often depression, malnutrition and, of course, disease contribute to the problem. The assessment can determine the role each of these plays and suggest how to address each one.

“Our goal is to keep our patients functioning at their highest emotional, social and physical level so they can remain as independent as possible in their own, familiar environment,” Grogan says. “Once we determine the cause of the problem we work with the individual, the family and the patient’s primary care physician to develop a comprehensive plan to address the problem. Then, we align the patient with community resources.”

St. Luke’s Senior Assessment Service is available in Bethlehem. For more information, call the Bethlehem office at 484-526-7035.