Geriatric Syndromes and Their Impact on Patient Safety for Older Adults: Lessons Learned From My Mother


  • Richard Kundravi, BS Patient Safety Authority


Good news: We are all living longer. In 2018, 15.6% of the United States population was comprised of adults age 65 and older. It is estimated that by 2030 the number of U.S. citizens age 65 and older will grow to 20%, with the 65-or-older segment of the population outnumbering citizens who are age 5 or younger. For individuals 85 and over, the population count is estimated to double between 1995 and 2030, and this growth will increase fivefold by 2050.

The bad news is that the longer people live, the more likely they are to develop geriatric syndromes, such as falls, delirium, dementia, sleep disorders, osteoporosis, bladder control, and weight loss. Older adults face many challenges, including problems with functionality and activities of daily living, especially in a healthcare setting. My mother was the perfect example of how having a knowledge of geriatric syndromes that emphasizes the unique features of the common health conditions in older adults will allow us to provide safer care to older adult patients. The way in which my mother lived her life demonstrated the interrelationship between these challenges she experienced and the ways we found to navigate through them from day to day.

Geriatric syndromes are multifactorial conditions that are prevalent in older adults. These common conditions hold substantial implications for functionality and life satisfaction. Geriatric syndromes are believed to develop when an individual experiences accumulated impairments in multiple systems. Besides leading to increased mortality and disability, decreased financial and personal resources, and longer hospitalizations, these conditions can substantially diminish an older adult’s quality of life. Once the quality of a person’s life is diminished, a person’s close relationships and social interactions can be negatively impacted. My mother knew that maintaining close relationships and social interactions with family and friends allowed her to stay alert and independent, which in turn allowed her to address the other predictors of a long life, such as exercise, diet, and routine visits to her physicians.

Another common explanation of a geriatric syndrome is a disorder experienced by older adults that occurs sporadically, rather than on a constant basis or as a single event, that may be brought about by a serious occurrence often associated with functional decline. More recently, geriatric syndromes have been defined as conditions in which symptoms are assumed to result not solely from discrete diseases, but rather from accumulated impairments in multiple systems and develop when the accumulated effect of these impairments in multiple systems compromises an individual’s ability to adjust.

Author Biography

Richard Kundravi, BS, Patient Safety Authority

Richard Kundravi ( is a patient safety liaison with the Patient Safety Authority for the Northwest region of Pennsylvania. Prior to coming to the PSA, he served as the director of Risk Management and Patient Safety at UPMC McKeesport as well as the facility’s corporate compliance officer, privacy officer, director of peer review, and patient representative.


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How to Cite

Kundravi, R. (2021). Geriatric Syndromes and Their Impact on Patient Safety for Older Adults: Lessons Learned From My Mother. Patient Safety, 3(4), 50–53. Retrieved from
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