What is Frailty

According to the Canadian Frailty Network (2019), “Frailty is a state of health where the person’s overall well-being and ability to function independently are reduced and vulnerability to deterioration is increased. People who are frail tend to spend more time in hospital, are less likely to return to their own home, are more likely to need care and support if they do go home and are also likely to have extended stays in long-term care”.

Why is it important to understand frailty? Research demonstrates that frailty may be prevented, postponed, or reversed. Caregivers can support resilience, encourage independence, and enhance the quality of life of the person they care for by applying some or all strategies discussed in this course.

Risk Factors for Experiencing Frailty

You may be concerned that the person you care for is at risk of experiencing frailty. Some factors that might increase a person’s risk of living with frailty are:

  • being over 80 years of age
  • having loss of muscle and strength
  • having reduced energy and low stamina (e.g. unable to walk up a flight of stairs)
  • showing slowed ability to complete daily tasks (e.g. getting dressed takes a very long time)
  • experiencing unintentional weight loss
  • experiencing a decreased ability to recover from an illness or injury
  • having many and/or long-term complex medical conditions
  • having a diagnosis of depression
  • becoming dependent on others to support daily living
  • having impaired mental abilities or changes in thinking

How to Identify Frailty

Using a screening tool can be a first step to identifying frailty. The Pictorial Fit-Frail Scale (PFFS) is an example of a screening tool that can be used by caregivers. Using images to identify levels of frailty, you can complete this on your own and/or with the person you are caring for. This tool takes approximately five minutes to complete.