Get access

A systematic review and comparison of functional assessments of community-dwelling elderly patients


  • Katie J. Roedl MS, FNP-C (Family Nurse Practitioner),

    1. Family Practice Clinic, Effingham, Illinois
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Lindsay S. Wilson MS, FNP-C (Family Nurse Practitioner),

    1. Dermatology Clinic, Mattoon, Illinois
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Julie Fine PhD, FNP-C (Associate Professor)

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Advanced Practice Nursing, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana
    • Correspondence Julie Fine, PhD, FNP-C, Department of Advanced Practice Nursing, Landsbaum Center for Health Education, #2081433 N. 6 1/2 Street, Terre Haute, IN 47807. Tel: 812-237-2886; Fax: 812-237-8939; E-mail:

    Search for more papers by this author



To provide advanced practice nurses in primary care with information about self-reported functional assessments and physical performance-based functional assessments of geriatric patients living alone within the community at greatest risk of functional decline.

Data sources

Databases searched include CINAHL, Healthsource: Nursing/Academic Edition, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, Cochrane Library, and National Clearinghouse Guidelines. The review was limited to English, research, and the years 2000–2014. Key search words included geriatric, community-dwelling, functional assessment, activities and instrumental activities of daily living, Barthel Index, Katz Index, Lawton Scale, Vulnerable Elders Survey, Timed Up and Go Test, Gait Speed Test, Functional Reach Test, and primary care.


Forty-three million individuals, age 65 and older, are currently living in the United States with numbers expected to double by 2050. Nurse practitioners will be at the forefront of assessing for functional decline and can use tools such as the Barthel Index and Gait Speed Test to improve elderly outcomes.

Implications for practice

Self-reported functional questionnaires and physical functional performance tests can quickly be completed in the office to track the risk of functional decline over time. Interventions, such as physical therapy or other community resources, can be initiated when needed to reduce negative outcomes of functional decline.