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Br J Gen Pract. 1991 January; 41(342): 13–15.
PMCID: PMC1371477

Assessment of elderly people in general practice. 2. Functional abilities and medical problems.


A random sample of 239 patients aged 75 years and over registered with general practitioners in north and north west London was selected for home assessment to determine the functional abilities and medical problems of this group of patients. Nearly one in five of the patients were incontinent of urine (18.4%), although this was on a daily basis for only 4.1%. Around one in 20 patients were incontinent of faeces (5.9%), yet only one patient had laundry service support. Unassisted mobility outdoors was reported as possible by 81.2% of the patients. Fourteen different types of aids were present in the participants' homes, the commonest being walking sticks, bath aids and stair rails. Only a small proportion of aids seemed to be currently unused. The major functional problems were bathing, housework, shopping, washing and ironing, and cooking main meals, but the level of demand for extra help was low. One in five patients had a hearing aid (19.8%) but for only 30% of these patients was it in continuous use. Polypharmacy was common, with 29.7% of patients taking three or more prescribed medicines. The workload implications of this approach to anticipatory care of elderly people are considerable. In an average practice of 2000 patients with 130 patients aged 75 years and over the primary care team would need over 150 hours of face-to-face contact per year with these patients to fulfil the new contractual obligation and the yield of new information leading to effective medical or social intervention is limited.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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Selected References

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