Frailty in older inpatients: what physicians need to know.
QJM. 2012 Nov;105(11):1059-65
Authors: McMillan GJ, Hubbard RE
Physicians involved in the care of medical inpatients, irrespective of their sub-specialty area, will be responsible for the management of a significant number of older adults with complex care needs and multiple co-morbidities. These patients are vulnerable to poor outcomes (including falls, institutionalization and death)--a vulnerability often linked with the term 'frail' or 'frailty'. Frailty is associated with advanced chronological age and chronic disease but is a separate construct. The measurement of frailty has received significant attention in recent geriatric medicine literature, with various models proposed to predict the risk of poor outcomes. Here, we briefly review different approaches to the definition of frailty, focusing on the conceptualization of frailty as the failure of a complex system. We explore how falls, a common cause of morbidity and mortality in older patient groups, may be a manifestation of increasing frailty and argue that falls services should avoid the practice of pursuing a single-organ cause when there are likely to be several contributing factors at play. We also consider the impact of frailty on medication prescribing and discuss how individualized prescribing could reduce the risk of adverse drug reactions in at-risk older inpatients. While it can be frustrating for physicians to manage patients who do not fit well into disease-based diagnostic and management algorithms, understanding frailty has the potential to improve the clinical care of vulnerable older people in the hospital setting.
PMID: 22753676 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]