GERIATRIC ASSESSMENT UNIT
Patients referred to the unit include the frail elderly whose specific diagnoses may be
puzzling and who present with a challenging complexity of medical, functional, and
psychosocial problems. Any of the following conditions may be present: weight
loss, functional decline, dementia, depression, recurrent falls, polypharmacy,
behavioural conditions, sensory losses, incontinence, and acute medical conditions
(eg. Parkinsonian, Diabetes, Hypertension, CHF, Pneumonia, CVA, Osteoporosis).
Theoretical Frames of Reference:
Several theories are applicable to the patients on the unit, including neurointegrative,
environmental, and physical rehabilitative.
Occupational Therapy Interventions:
(a) Assessment of self-care, upper extremity function, mobility (in conjunction
with the physiotherapist), cognition, and level of function in instrumental
activities of daily living.
(b) Short-Term Treatment in any of the above areas, which is patient-centred and
(c) Prescription of Assistive Devices, including self-care aids, orthotics, and
mobility aids (walkers, wheelchairs).
(d) Patient/Family Education
(e) Discharge Planning, in conjunction with other members of the health care
The therapist is located on the unit, where assessment and interventions occur in
the therapy room or patient rooms. A kitchen and tub room are available for
assessment as well. Some flexibility is required in terms of scheduling sessions with
patients, due to their medical status and other tests/investigations which may be
ordered during their admission.
Geriatricians, registered nurses, registered practical nurses, unit secretary, team
leader/manager, physiotherapist, social worker, clinical psychologist, clinical
nutritionist, speech-language pathologist, pharmacist, occupational therapist, and
clinical nurse specialist.
Bibliography of Suggested Readings:
(1) Pertinent articles about aging are available in the orientation binder on the
(2) Libraries are located on the unit, at the RGP offices at Parkwood Hospital,
and at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
(1) Interdisciplinary team rounds are held twice weekly.
(2) Patient/family conferences are scheduled on an as-needed basis for many
patients, prior to discharge, to provide findings to them and to their
caregivers, and to outline a discharge plan.
(3) Journal clubs are held monthly.
(4) There is an opportunity for the student to set up individual sessions with staff
in related clinical areas (eg. RGP outreach teams, Third Age Programs, Dr.
Hurwitz’s out-patient clinics).
The unit is a 14-bed, acute care setting, with a length of stay averaging 14 to 21
days. It opened for admissions in March 1994. There is one full-time occupational
therapy position. Students will find the caseload challenging in complexity, and fast-
paced. The emphasis is primarily on assessment of the patient in the medical,
functional, and psychosocial areas, optimizing function, and recommendations for
follow up in the community.
STUDENT OBJECTIVES – GERIATRIC ASSESSMENT UNIT
1) The student will gain an understanding of the changes which occur with normal
2) The student will gain an understanding of the common pathologies which occur
in the aging population.
3) The student will become familiar with and learn to administer various functional
4) The student will participate as a member of an interdisciplinary team, providing
direct patient assessment, intervention and discharge planning. The student
may also assume the role of “Care Manager” for a patient.
5) The student will be expected to take responsibility for “support” tasks, including
answering telephones, directing visitors, recording workload statistics,
6) The student will become aware of various community resources and support
services for the elderly, and will assist in discharge planning for patients.
Revised November 2001
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