A simple procedure for general screening for functional disability in elderly patients
We propose a short, simple approach that can be used by general internists to routinely screen the functional status of elderly patients in office practice. The approach relies on checking a limited number of targets that are commonly dysfunctional but often unappreciated when conventional histories and physical examinations are done for elderly patients. The new focus is on carefully selected tests of vision, hearing, arm and leg function, urinary incontinence, mental status, instrumental and basic activities of daily living, environmental hazards, and social support systems. Brief questions and easily observed tasks are used to obtain the information needed for a suitable, effective screening while minimizing the time for administration. The approach can be incorporated into routine practice if certain relatively unproductive procedures are eliminated from the routine clinical examination, and particularly if internists are suitably compensated for the additional time.