Frailty is not an illness but a syndrome that combines the effects of natural ageing with the outcomes of multiple long-term health conditions, these result in a loss of fitness and in-built reserves of the individual.
Around 10% of people aged over 65 years are considered as frail; this figure increases substantially as people get older, with around half of those aged over 85 years having frailty.
Why is it Important?
Even a minor adverse health event, such as an infection or addition of a new medication, can cause major changes in the physical and mental wellbeing of an older person with frailty.
Frailty can lead to decreased balance and mobility, thereby increasing the risk of falls and fractures.
If you have or are at risk for frailty, there are things you can do to manage the condition and prevent or slow down the decline. This can help reduce adverse outcomes and help you stay independent for longer
Frailty warning signs/syndromes:
- Falls - please refer to the ‘preventing falls’ for details
- Poor mobility
- Delirium (acute confusion or suddenly worsening confusion in someone with cognitive impairment)
- Inability to control urination and bowel movement
- Side effects of medication
- Low mood
What assessment can be done if you are diagnosed to have frailty?
A geriatrician, who is a specialist doctor for the elderly, can give you a complete check which is known as a Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment to determine your health status and treatment options.
How can we treat or prevent frailty?
Proactively identifying frailty and intervening early can make a difference in health outcomes. Once frailty is established, if measures are not implemented to slow down or prevent its progression, there is often a rapid decline toward disability.
Many of the causes of frailty are treatable and even reversible with early identification and a comprehensive treatment plan.
Treatment for frailty is usually delivered by an experienced clinical team that will focus on the following aspects of care:
- Limiting Polypharmacy - avoiding unnecessary medication and ensuring you take only the right medicines at the right doses
- Exercise and managing loss of muscle strength
- Dietary advice and managing undernutrition
- Treatment of Vitamin D deficiency
- Encouraging social interaction and cognitive stimulation
Useful Reference Sites: