Palliative care for the older adult

J Palliat Med. 2007 Feb;10(1):185-209. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2006.9989.


The majority of deaths in the United States occur in the geriatric population. These older adults often develop multiple chronic medical problems and endure complicated medical courses with a variety of disease trajectories. Palliative care physicians need to be skilled in addressing the needs of these frail elders with life-limiting illness as they approach the end of life. Although geriatrics and palliative medicine share much in common, including an emphasis on optimizing quality of life and function, geriatric palliative care is distinct in its focus on the geriatric syndromes and on the provision of care in a variety of long-term care settings. Expertise in the diagnosis and management of the geriatric syndromes and in the complexities of long-term care settings is essential to providing high-quality palliative care to the elderly patient. This paper is a practical review of common geriatric syndromes, including dementia, delirium, urinary incontinence, and falls, with an emphasis on how they may be encountered in the palliative care setting. It also highlights important issues regarding the provision of palliative care in different long-term care settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls
  • Aged
  • Delirium
  • Dementia
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Hospice Care*
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care
  • Palliative Care*
  • Urinary Incontinence