n South African Family Practice - Treating complexity in the older adult - the role of the geriatric giants - research

Volume 61 Number 6
  • ISSN : 2078-6190
  • E-ISSN: 2078-6204


As people age, they accumulate medical conditions. Geriatric giants comprise a group of conditions that lead to significant mortality and morbidity and contribute to the complexity in treating geriatric patients. They are common and rarely occur in isolation. The 5 Is of geriatric giants are: iatrogenesis, immobility, instability, incontinence and impaired cognition. Consequences for the patient and their caregivers include loss of functional independence, institutionalisation and caregiver burnout. Primary care practitioners are often the first port of call for geriatric patients in South Africa and by asking a few key questions and performing a thorough examination; these conditions can be recognised early. Whilst there are often limitations to cure, the main aim is to maintain the older adult’s functional independence as much as possible, and by following an organised management approach to each of these conditions, the quality of life of patients can be improved.

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