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Why Geriatric Care Managers Should Assess Holistic Quality of Life in Older Adults
posted 01.27.2016

By Crystal McGaha

Holistic Quality of Life assessment is a vital aspect of geriatric care management, as geriatric care managers seek to understand the complex, interconnected parts of an individual, considering physical, mental, spiritual, and social factors and how they impact the overall health and well-being of older adults. Chronic illness, disease, and disability often dramatically alter quality of life for affected individuals and their loved ones, making daily activities increasingly difficult, while some aspects of daily life and enjoyment become altogether impossible. Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, cancer, heart conditions, arthritis, obesity, depression, fibromyalgia, incontinence, visual problems, hearing loss, and dementia are all examples of common, chronic conditions and disabilities affecting older adults. The “holistic” approach to quality of life assessment is characterized by treating every client as a whole, recognizing that every individual may be different, stretching beyond the physical manifestations of disease to consider personal circumstances.

Some of the major goals of successful geriatric care management are to assist in improving quality of life for clients, to effectively confront matters that damage quality of life, to assist in making decisions that are in the best interest of clients and their loved ones, and to improve the process of aging. Loss of function, whether it be physiological, psychological, or anatomical, can be devastating and life-changing, as can inability or decreased capacity to do the things you were once able to do. Seeking to assess and improve upon quality of life in older adults facing such hardships can result in greater independence, delayed need for assisted living or long-term care, increased happiness and satisfaction, improved health outcomes, management and/or elimination of depression, and more. With disability, mental illness, and chronic disease prevalent among older adults, life enhancing practices and interventions are necessary in geriatric care management.

Geriatric care managers are better equipped to create optimum care plans to meet individual needs and to improve quality of life following assessment of overall function, living situation, social support, various aspects of health, needs, and desires. Holistic quality of life may or may not correlate with financial status, location, level of education, sexual satisfaction or regularity, accomplishments or lack thereof—although a combination of elements are addressed in assessment. Holistic quality of life refers to overall sense of well-being, quality of everyday physical, emotional, and spiritual experiences, productivity, joy, and how the individual being assessed would rate their current satisfaction in life as a whole. Examination of quality of life in older age has much to do with what and who an individual values, what an individual’s belief system consists of, how she or he cope with challenges, how the individual mind grasps reality, and how she or he reflect upon life.

Geriatric care managers and aging professionals can use various assessment tools, such as questionnaires, tracking calendars, and behavioral surveillance to determine the relationship between physical health, spiritual health, social life, emotional well-being, positive and negative behaviors, addictions, personal challenges, and individual quality of life. Methods of quality of life assessment for Geriatric care managers include surveys/questionnaires both verbal and written (formal and informal), self-reporting, weighing of observations, use of measurement comparison scales, and use of cultural translations, as necessary.

Prior to formal quality of life assessment and further relationship building, it can be challenging for geriatric care managers to accurately assess quality of life in a client; quality of life cannot always be critiqued by outward appearance or the absence or presence of mental and/or physical limitations. Quality of life assessment for older adults suffering from different mental and physical illnesses or disabilities may require additional consideration and evaluation, such as how symptoms of illness and direct effects of disability impact functionality, psychological well-being, and overall quality of life. Many individuals struggling with physical and mental illnesses and limitations face dramatic decline in satisfaction with life, regularly battling depression and thoughts of harming themselves or others. Recognition of the need to regularly monitor emotional health and quality of life in client’s facing chronic illness and disability is critical. With quality of life assessment, factors which interfere with individual quality of life can be identified, addressed, and in some cases, conquered.

Crystal McGaha is working towards her MA in Gerontology with a concentration in Professional Geriatric Care Management through Nova Southeastern University. She has a BA in Complementary and Alternative Health with a minor in Human Resources Management. Her goal is to combine her knowledge in Alternative Health and Human Resources Management with Gerontology to offer the aging population unique, yet very important care initiatives, life planning, and health promotion opportunities. 

For further suggestions and information regarding how GCMs and other professionals in aging can seek to improve QOL, please look for my future articles.

Useful Website Recommendations:

Cathy Cress—Holistic Quality of Life Assessment—How?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—Healthy Aging Improving and Extending Quality of Life Among Older Americans (PDF).

Sarah Stevenson—10 Symptoms of Mental Illness in the Elderly.

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