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Senior Citizen's Guide to Cleveland

What is a Senior Assessment Center?

It’s not always easy to keep that positive perspective when faced with the many challenges of aging. But knowing what to expect, and how to manage the challenges can make all the difference in the world. A senior assessment center can help.

A senior assessment center can offer insight and guidance specific to many of the common problems older adults face including decline in ability to perform day-to-day activities, confusion and memory loss, depression and anxiety, behavioral changes, problems managing medications, falls or difficulty walking, concerns regarding living arrangements, caregiver stress and concerns, weight loss and driving safety.

“Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is accept the fact that something isn’t quite right. Often, family members and caregivers, rather than the older individual themselves, are the first to contact us,” said Christine Nelson, APRN, BC, Geriatric Clinical Nurse Specialist at Lakewood Hospital. “We tell our patients that knowledge is power. When you know what you are dealing with, you can learn as much as possible about it, then determine how best to live with it. We work with our patients and family members to make things better, and we plan with them for the future.”

When an older adult, family member or caregiver first contacts a senior assessment center some general intake questions are asked. Based on the responses to those questions, an assessment appointment is scheduled.

The older adult and family members come to the appointment and includes the following:

The typical patient in a senior assessment center is over the age of 65, though some may be younger. Many patients and family members who contact a senior assessment center are concerned about memory loss. But while dementia can cause memory changes, and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of all dementias, there are many different types of dementia.

“Though dementia is prevalent as we age, people should not assume that memory loss is a normal part of aging or that it is a sign of Alzheimer’s. A comprehensive assessment can diagnose many possible causes including vitamin deficiency, thyroid imbalance and depression. However, if dementia or Alzheimer’s is the diagnosis, medications are available that may be able to improve function,” said Nelson.

The clinical team at a senior assessment center often consists of geriatricians, a board-certified medical doctor with specialized training in preventing and treating health problems of the older adult, geriatric psychiatrists, a psychiatrist trained to deal specifically with the mental health concerns of an older adult, a geriatric clinical nurse specialist, registered nurse and social worker.

A physician referral is not required– the care and services provided are not meant to replace those of a primary care physician – instead, a senior assessment center works in collaboration with the patient’s personal physician to provide support, education and recommendations to develop a plan so the patient and family can successfully manage their care. In most cases, insurance will cover the services provided; however, it is always a good idea to verify health insurance coverage prior to pursuing any medical treatment.

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