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Why do we need to identify frailty?

Frailty should be identified with a view to improving outcomes and avoiding unnecessary harm. 

The central problem with frailty is the potential for serious adverse outcomes after a seemingly minor stressor event or change. This could mean anything from a simple episode of ‘flu to a major intervention like a joint replacement. Even apparently simple interventions like a move to a short term residential placement for respite, a trip to the local emergency department after a fall or the trial of a new analgesic can have unforeseen and adverse outcomes.  Thus for an individual, the knowledge that they have frailty can help health and social care professionals to take action to prevent the poor outcome for a particular intervention (or even to avoid the intervention) and to start a pathway of care to address the issues contributing to frailty.

It is important to remember however, that:

  • Frailty varies in severity (individuals should not be labelled as being frail or not frail but simply that they have frailty).
  • The frailty state for an individual is not static; it can be made better and worse.
  • Frailty is not an inevitable part of ageing; it is a long term condition in the same sense that diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease is.


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