General Screening Recommendations for Chronic Disease and Risk Factors in Older Adults
Issue #100 of
WHY: Chronic diseases, such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (coronary heart disease, hypertension, and dyslipidemia), disproportionately affect older adults and are associated with disability and diminished quality of life. These conditions share many of the same common, modifiable risk factors, including obesity and physical inactivity. Identification of chronic disease risk factors and early disease detection, through screening, may decrease the burden of chronic disease and protect and promote the health of older adults.
BEST PRACTICES: Assess for individual participation in and results of recommended screening tests during office and clinic visits, and hospital, home care, and tertiary care admissions.
TARGET POPULATION: All younger and older adults.
STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS: Although chronic conditions are among the most common and costly health problems, they are also among the most preventable. Risk factor identification, screening, and interventions have been successful in preventing chronic diseases and their associated morbidity and mortality in older adults. However, age limits on screening practices, inconsistencies in risk factor cut points, and bias towards aggressive risk factor reduction in older adults may limit beneficial effects of early detection. For those with multiple chronic illnesses, decisions should be individualized. According to the American Geriatrics Society (AGS), health screening decisions for older adults should be person-centered and based on the person’s life expectancy, preferences, plan for what the individual may or may not want to do further if screening had positive findings (i.e. potentially invasive testing and/or treatments), as well as degree of burden to the individual.
FOLLOW UP: Regardless of the clinical setting and transitions, individuals should have follow-up with their primary care provider to decide on the appropriate lifestyle and/or medication management of risk factors. Individuals should be screened using a holistic perspective in regards to self, family history, setting, and short and long term goals. Careful ongoing assessments of effectiveness of treatment and for its side effects are especially important in older adults.
RISK FACTORS AND SCREENING PROTOCOLS:
1. Screen for chronic disease upon admission of older adults.
2. Educate each person about the importance and benefits of primary preventive care using verbal, written, and electronic material.
3. Initiate and incorporate screening for chronic disease into the electronic health record.
4. Follow up and assure that the health care team complies with protocol.
5. Provide appropriate community referrals and follow up.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
Best practice information on care of older adults: https://consultgeri.org.
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Screening recommendations for those of all ages change frequently and are endorsed by multiple organizations. For information related to screening recommendations in older adults, we suggest these organizations and resources. Please note these are only suggestions and are not meant to be a comprehensive list.