Frailty is more common in those aged over 85 years compared to those between 65 and 85 years.
Frailty in older adults is a late-life vulnerability that contributes to increased risk for poor outcomes.
- For example, when circumstances change - such as after a fall; being hospitalised for any reason; or having a disability, among other things.
Frailty is a state of decline in late life in which multiple body systems gradually lose their in-built reserves.
The term 'frail' is used to recognize and identify vulnerable individuals undergoing medical or surgical interventions.
There is no gold standard for diagnosing frailty. Importantly, old age itself does not define frailty. Some patients remain vigorous, despite advanced age, while others have gradual but unrelenting functional decline in the absence of apparent stress factors, or fail to rebound following illness or hospitalization.
For the older person there is a difference between frailty, long term conditions and disability.
- Many elderly people with multiple long term conditions (multi-morbidity) may also be frail, which may be masked when the focus is on other disease based long-term condition/s.
- Likewise, some older people who are otherwise well may only suffer from frailty. They are generally not regularly known to their GP, until they become bed bound, immobile or delirious as a result of an apparently minor illness.
- Similarly, there is overlap between frailty and physical disability - many people with frailty also have disability, but lots of people with a long term disability do not have frailty. Frailty may be the cause of disability in some patients and the consequence in others.