Geriatric testing involves, at least in our case, a nurse practitioner, a nurse case manager, a social worker, a pharmacist and a geriatrician (doctor who specializes in the medical conditions of the elderly). The test can sometimes be done in two hours. Our test took four.
What is it? There are several reasons for this test. The elderly have a high depression rate. Naturally they also have many health issues. In our case, a lot of attention was focused on our elder’s memory and her kidneys. Other tests were done…she had a bladder scan, an EKG (which checked blood flow as well as heart rhythm) and an x-ray of her back. Elders with other issues may have different tests.
Who should have it? Anyone over the age of 65, especially those who have serious illnesses or suspected memory issues. In fact, when told the test had never been done, the person scheduling it was extremely surprised. Our elder is nearly 89.
Why is it important? This is for two reasons. The first and most important reason is for the patient’s health. Diseases caught early can be treated. If a condition is getting worse, it provides a means to tell how bad it is.
The second is legal. A dementia patient isn’t able to handle many of the things that we take for granted. In order to establish a conservatorship or to enact a trusteeship, it has to be medically determined that the patient is incompetent to handle finances and other aspects of daily life. This testing will help with both aspects.
Why does a family member have to be present? The family member is more or less a fact checker. I can tell you from long experience that this is not an easy role. It will make the patient angry. It’s also important to know which part of the tests not to give answers to. I had to bite my tongue (figuratively) a few times not to answer when she was floundering for words and looking at me for help.
How long does it take? As mentioned above, it took four hours for us. They were a very busy four hours. We didn’t wait a long time between each member of the team, so this four hours was actually all testing. If there aren’t as many issues, it may not take as long. In our case, it couldn’t have gone on longer; we left after the facility was technically closed.
What should you bring? Water is a good idea, for both of you. In fact, I should have brought more. I went through my bottle half way through the process. You may also want to bring a snack. We didn’t need it, but I had one anyway.
You will also need to bring paperwork. The trusteeship in our case was enacted two years ago, and I had to bring along the documents for it, showing that I was medical power of attorney. If there are ongoing memory issues but the patient is high functioning enough to get angry when you describe them, write them out and give them to the doctor prior to the testing. This will help keep the patient calm and still let the doctors know what’s been happening.
You may need to bring along medications. If either you or the patient have ongoing medical conditions, you may need them during the period of time you’re there. If the patient is in a facility, talk to the medical technician or the nurse.
This was a long day for both of us. Expect to be tired and expect the patient to be tired. It may also be somewhat depressing, especially the mental testing parts. It’s hard to see someone who has always been feisty, independent and strong minded unable to remember events. However, it needed to be done. Now we wait for the results.