Family gatherings during the holidays are an ideal time for adult children to assess the well being of aging parents and other older relatives.
This is especially important for those who may visit just a few times a year, since changes in mental or physical health and safety issues in the home may be more noticeable. Holiday visits are a good time to ensure that aging parents can still care for themselves.
Get tips on covering this annual story: what families should look for, questions to ask and resources to consult.
Photo: Vee via Flickr
Geography, race and income matter when it comes to frailty, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Women and the poor are more likely to be frail, and older people in southern states more that three times likely to be frail than those in western states. Additionally, blacks and Hispanics were nearly twice as likely to be frail than whites, researchers concluded. Continue reading
Image by Alex E. Proimos via flickr.
The term “frailty” seems to be practically synonymous with aging. And while it’s true that adults naturally have a gradual physical decline as they age, not every older adult is frail and not every frail person is old.
Aging, also called senescence, refers to the biological process of growing older. As people age, it becomes more difficult for the body to repair itself and maintain optimal health, according to Neal S. Fedarko, Ph.D., professor of medicine, division of geriatric medicine and gerontology, Johns Hopkins University. People age differently based on both genetics and lifestyle factors.
Frailty is considered a chronic and progressive condition, categorized by at least three of five criteria: muscle weakness, unintentional weight loss, low physical activity levels, fatigue and slow walking speed. The body loses its ability to cope with everyday or acute stress, becoming more vulnerable to disease and death, as Samuel Durso, M.D., director of geriatric medicine and gerontology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine explained in a recent AHCJ webcast.
Learn more about frailty, and how it affects people’s quality of life as they age, in this new tip sheet.
A new project is addressing the special concerns of frail elderly hospital patients in an attempt to help prevent lengthy hospital stays and readmissions for elderly folks, Anna Gorman of the Los Angeles Times reports.
Through the “frailty project” at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, at-risk seniors are identified and, within 24 hours, assessed for “their risk of complications such as falls, bed sores and delirium. Then a nurse, social worker, pharmacist and physician assess the most vulnerable patients and make an action plan to help them.” Continue reading
We often accept frailty, with its depleted energy and general wearing down of the body, as an inevitable part of aging. About 4 percent of men and 7 percent of women older than 65 were frail in a 2001 study. After the age of 85, that rises to about 25 percent.
Frailty leads to more serious problems, such as an increased risk of falling. People who are frail also have a more difficult time recovering if they are hospitalized.
But, as Judith Graham points out in AHCJ’s core topic pages on aging, exercise can help stave off the decline in body mass, strength, balance and other characteristics of frailty.
Findings like that challenge our view of frail adults as beyond remedy. They’re not. With careful assessment and help from physicians, social workers, nurses, and physical therapists, their functioning can be improved and their lives made easier.
Learn more about frailty, how it affects aging and get links to some relevant studies in the key concepts section of AHCJ’s core topic on aging.