Introducing an invaluable tool to help you support older patients with frailty

The British Geriatric Society (BGS) has released the first of a two-part guidance called Fit for Frailty.

In the guidelines the BGS calls for all those working with older people to be aware of, and assess for frailty. It dispels the myth that all older people are frail and that frailty is an inevitable part of ageing. It highlights the fact that frailty is not static - like other long term conditions it can fluctuate in severity.

Frailty can be explained as a loss of physical and psychological reserves, which leads to increased vulnerability, and can mean that just a small change in health, such as minor infection, could result in never getting back to pre-existing state of health or independence. This in turn can lead to a move to a care home or even death. The problem is that frailty very often goes unnoticed. Besides, for older people themselves and their GP, the delivery of care will often involve other agencies like social services, community teams and the ambulance service. All these professionals need to consider issues such as the symptoms of frailty and signs to look out for and what to do or who to call before a crisis happens.

Dr Gill Turner - BGS Vice President - clinical quality and Fit for Frailty project group lead says, "Given the current emphasis on emergency admissions and older people - it is perhaps not surprising that the words 'frail' and 'frailty' are used almost interchangeably with 'older'. Yet more than 50 per cent of people over the age of 85 will not have frailty. For those who do, we need to carefully consider how health and social care can best be of service".

The BGS believes that knowledge that an older person has frailty is invaluable and should set off a pathway of activity involving a holistic review along the lines of the Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment.

Professor Nigel Mathers, Honorary Secretary of the RCGP said, "People with frailty are not necessarily known to their GP as significant users of the health service and may not have big care packages. Frailty can often go unnoticed until adverse effects are already happening and many older people might not have their long term conditions actively managed. The RCGP therefore welcomes Fit for Frailty as an essential resource for GPs and other health professionals in community settings".

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, says "As the older population continues to increase it is likely more of us will be living with frailty. However, with the right approach this does not have to mean living in poor health or in constant need of health and care services. At the moment too often older people who are frail and living with multiple conditions end up in a crisis situation with no other choice but to be admitted into hospital or a care home. By taking a proactive approach that takes account of the whole person, such a crisis can be prevented and longer-term quality of life improved.

The NHS needs to change the way it looks at an older patient. Frailty and complex health needs come with their own challenges, but this is all the more reason to commit to and invest in ways of working that support older people using the specialist knowledge that sits behind this guidance. If we can get this right it will help to sustain the health, wellbeing and quality of life for everyone, regardless of age."

Fit for Frailty is in two parts:

  • Part One is available here
  • Part Two is to be published later this year, and will address developing commissioning and managing services for frailty in community settings.

References:

For case studies, interviews with Dr Gill Turner or any other media enquiries, please contact Laura Luxton, the Communications Manager - BGS on telephone: 0207 608 8572 or 079 7741 1831 (out of hours) email: pr@bgs.org.uk.

Further notes:

British Geriatric Society

The British Geriatrics Society is a professional association of doctors practising geriatric medicine, old age psychiatrists, general practitioners, nurses, therapist, scientists and others with a particular interest in the medical care of older people and in promoting better health in old age. It has almost 3000 members worldwide and is the only society in the UK offering specialist medical expertise in the wide range of health care needs of older people.

The BGS is an advocate of equal access to health care treatment. It believes that all older people should be entitled to a comprehensive assessment, a proper diagnosis and a treatment plan, regardless of their age.

The BGS use the expertise of its members to inform and influence the development of health care policy in the UK and to ensure the design, commissioning and delivery of age appropriate health services. The BGS works closely with other specialist medical societies and allies itself with age-related charities.

Check out the new BGS Blog for news, commentary and discussion of topical issues related to geriatric medicine and the care of older people. Follow us on Twitter@gerisoc. For the latest news from the BGS, subscribe to our monthly e-bulletin.

Age UK

We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI and our local Age UK partners in England (together the Age UK family). We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances. We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and wellbeing, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they("we") have formed the Age UK Group . Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity’s trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

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