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Laeknabladid. 2002 Jan;88(1):29-38.

[Geriatric rehabilitation as an integral part of geriatric medicine in the nordic countries.].

[Article in Icelandic]

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Department of Geriatrics, Landspitali University Hospital, Landakoti, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland.



Firstly to outline the theoretical and practical framework for geriatric rehabilitation in Iceland and other Nordic countries and secondly to survey the scientific medical publications for evidence based geriatric rehabilitation.


Brain storming on geriatric rehabilitation in a working group of Nordic teachers in geriatric medicine. Papers on scientific programs for geriatric rehabilitation from Internet sources were collected and analyzed. All articles describing randomized studies in geriatric rehabilitation were selected for overview. The papers were divided into four groups according to diseases, infirmity and resource settings; 1) stroke, 2) hip-fractures, 3) acute admissions and 4) programs conducted in nursing homes, day hospitals and home services.


A spectrum of biological and social events creates the conditions underlying most causes for illness and disability in old people. The process of established geriatric services promotes the efficiency of geriatric rehabilitation. The literature survey included 27 scientific studies (8586 patients) on randomized studies with valid endpoints. Geriatric rehabilitation programs for stroke patients in geriatric settings, six studies (1138 patients), reduced mortality and the need for nursing home placement but the outcome for ADL. Function and length of stay was more variable between the studies. The outcome of geriatric rehabilitation was even more decisive in the randomized hip-fracture studies, six studies (2171 patients). Eight studies were found comparing the outcome between acute admission of frail elderly to either geriatric (GEMU, GRU) or general medical wards. The outcome as regards to mortality rate at one year, placement to a nursing home, physical function, contentment with services, readmission rate and cost was all significantly better in the geriatric settings. Internal comparisons of geriatric programs in nursing homes, day hospitals and in home service, seven studies (1261 patient), revealed some differences in outcomes in function, contentment and costs.


Specialized geriatric rehabilitation is complicated but effective when properly performed. Interdisciplinary teamwork, targeting of patients, comprehensive assessment and intensive and patient-targeted rehabilitation seem to characterize the most effective programs. Rehabilitation of frail elderly people poses a major challenge for the future and has to be developed further for the sake of quality of life of elderly people as well as for economic reasons.


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