Geriatric Syndromes

Geriatric syndromes have wide-ranging implications for patients. Geriatric syndromes increase the older adult’s vulnerability during transitions in care settings. Coordinated plans of care should be developed for older adults with geriatric syndromes.

This teaching strategy can be used with students in both beginning and advanced nursing courses. It can be adapted to a variety of ways: used in clinical or classroom settings; utilized with actual or simulated scenarios; and designed for both beginning and advanced nursing courses.

Geriatric Syndromes

Learning Objectives

Students will: 

  • Describe the geriatric syndrome(s) affecting the patient.
  • Explore the complexity of care associated with the identified geriatric syndromes.
  • Develop a coordinated plan of care for an older adult with a geriatric syndrome.
  • Explain how the geriatric syndrome increases the older adult’s vulnerability during transitions in care settings.

Learner Pre-Work

  1. Instruct students to read the article Geriatric Syndromes and Implications for Nursing by Tricia Brown-O’Hara (2013)


  2. Ask students to listen to the Maria Diaz audio file (monologue) to identify the components of geriatric syndrome. How does Maria illustrate the complexity of care associated with geriatric syndromes?

Suggested Learning Activities

These teaching strategies focusing on assessment and use of evolving knowledge enhance the student's spirit of inquiry and development of professional judgment. 

  1. Concept Map: Utilize a concept map approach to illustrate the effect geriatric syndromes are having on the health and healing of a selected patient. Have the student identify the geriatric syndromes that are being experienced by the selected patient and then show the impact on this patient and family using information gathered during an assessment of the patient's function and expectations.  
  2.  Interview and Case Study: Assign the student to interview an older adult, either a well elder in the community or a patient in a care setting. Have the student write a one-page case study about this individual including information about the geriatric syndromes the student identified during the interview. This case study can then be shared with fellow students either through discussion or role play.  
  3. Impact Paper: Assign the students to write a short paper in which they discuss the impact the identified geriatric syndrome is having on the health of the person, on coordination of care, and on the patient's family. The Maria Diaz case can also be used for the paper.
  4. Role Play: Have students assume the role of a person who is living with a geriatric syndrome. Acting as the patient, the student would describe how the geriatric syndrome has affected the patient's function, expectations, and care. Consider how transitioning from one care setting to another could be managed to provide competent, individualized, and humanistic care.

Suggested Reading

Inouye, S., Studenski, S., Tinetti, M., & Kuchel, G. (2007). Geriatric syndromes: Clinical, research, and policy implications of a core geriatric concept.  American Geriatrics Society, 55, 780-791. Retrieved from

Rauch, J. (2010, April). Letting go of my father. The Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved from

Assessment Tools

The Try This:® Series from the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing (HIGN) at the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing contains many evidence-based assessment tools. The tool, an article about using the tool, and a video illustrating the use of the tool, are all available for your use.

Author Information

Mary Gelbach, MSN, RN
Delaware County Community College
Media, PA

Leslie Sammarco, MSN, RN
Seminole State College
Sanford, FL

Sheron Rowe, MSN, LHRM, RN
Seminole State College
Sanford, FL