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Home Health Care – Understanding Frailty In Elderly Adults

Home health care providers in Kansas City understand the differences between “frailty” and “being frail” in the environment of home health care. 

The word “frail” can mean several things. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is described as i. Easily led into evil (frail humanity); ii. Easily broken or destroyed (fragile); iii. Physically weak or iv. Slight, insubstantial. 

In relation to the healthcare industry in general, there is no clear agreement on what frailty means exactly; however, there is a clear consensus in the home health care industry in Kansas City as to how frailty is defined in a clinical setting. It is generally agreed that a combination of several biomedical factors influences a person’s physiological state in a way that reduces one’s capacity to withstand environmental stresses. 

Seniors falling is a factor of frailty. As people age, falls can become increasingly common. The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Report on Falls Prevention in Older Age states that “approximately 28-35% of people aged of 65 and over fall each year increasing to 32-42% for those over 70 years of age. The frequency of falls increases with age and frailty level. Approximately 30-50% of people living in long-term care institutions fall each year, and 40% of them experienced recurrent falls.”

Frailty impacts the body and mind and as people age; their brain, hormones, immune system, bones, and muscles all undergo changes. These changes happen to everyone, some more than others. Some days people with frailty will have good days when they’re fairly independent; other days they are more symptomatic and need a lot more support. 

Symptoms of frailty include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent infections
  • Worsening balance
  • Confusion

There are many tests used to diagnose frailty and the Edmonton Frail Scale is one method, which looks at 9 different areas of functioning, called domains. This method includes a combination of questions and physical tests including:

  • Cognitive ability
  • General health status
  • Functional independence
  • Social support
  • Medication use
  • Nutrition
  • Mood
  • Continence
  • Functional performance

The combined score from all categories determines if frailty is diagnosed. 

Growing old is not a prerequisite to elderly people becoming frail. However, many home health care experts in Kansas City agree that it is a distinct syndrome which occurs principally in older people. Those who are the most vulnerable and are at increased risk of hospitalization, dependency and reduced life expectancy fall into this category. These factors contribute to an increased demand for medical and social care and are associated with increased economic costs. Realistically, as the elderly population continues to rise, this healthcare burden will only increase.

Prevention and treatment for frailty include dietary changes and physical exercise. It is important for family members to be aware of what to look for and seek professional assistance when they notice frailty in a loved one. As a result, knowing that frailty is present can help with decision-making about home healthcare.  

If you are caring for a loved one who experiences frailty, preventing injury or infection should be a top priority. Here are some things you can do at home:

  • Installing a shower chair in their bathroom
  • Removing tripping hazards from the home
  • Installing grab bars in the bedroom and bathroom
  • Making sure they’re taking care of hygiene
  • Limiting sick visitors

Take some time to look for everyday hazards that your loved one encounters and see if there’s a way to minimize the hazards.

Home Care Assistance of Kansas City offers an alternative to patients and family caregivers of home health care. Call 913-663-5000 for more information regarding seniors and the condition of frailty.