Geriatric Syndromes

The term “geriatric syndrome” is used to capture those clinical conditions in older persons that do not fit into discrete disease categories. Many of the most common conditions cared for by geriatricians, including delirium, falls, frailty, dizziness, syncope and urinary incontinence, are classified as geriatric syndromes.

Geriatric syndromes, such as delirium, falls, incontinence and frailty, are highly prevalent, multifactorial, and associated with substantial morbidity and poor outcomes.

Four shared risk factors—older age, baseline cognitive impairment, baseline functional impairment, and impaired mobility—were identified across five common geriatric syndromes (pressure ulcers, incontinence, falls, functional decline, and delirium).

Geriatric syndromes share many common features. They are highly prevalent in older adults, especially the frail elderly. Their impact on quality of life and disability is substantial. Multiple underlying factors, involving multiple organ systems, tend to contribute to, and define, geriatric syndromes.

An example of geriatric syndrome:  when an infection involving the urinary tract precipitates delirium, it is the altered neural function in the form of cognitive and behavioral changes.

Of the multifactorial etiology of the common geriatric syndromes of pressure ulcers, incontinence, falls, functional decline, and delirium. Four shared risk factors have been identified across all of these geriatric syndromes, including older age, cognitive impairment, functional impairment, and impaired mobility.

The concept of a geriatric syndrome has already facilitated the development of multicomponent intervention strategies.

Importantly, at least 3 of these 4 risk factors are amenable to intervention. Preventive strategies to provide reorientation for cognitive impairment, or exercise, balance training, and mobilization to reduce functional impairment and impaired mobility. Testing of unified intervention strategies targeted towards these shared risk factors may prevent these common geriatric syndromes and frailty, along with their associated poor long-term outcomes


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