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​​​​​​​​​​​What is Frailty?

Frailty is a condition common among the elderly. It is usually an aging-related syndrome characterised by decline and reduced function, and is a warning sign for high risk of poor outcomes. Frail older adults usually suffer from unintentional weight loss, muscle loss and weakness which may lead to falls, disability, increased hospitalisation, and even death.

Although frailty can be predisposed by aging, it is not equivalent to aging and it can be preventable and reversible, especially at the earlier stages of frailty. It is important to understand what is frailty so early identification and intervention can be carried out to delay the onset and progression of frailty.​

Signs and symptoms of frailty

When one is frail, it can be manifested through his/her physical and psychological health. He/she may feel:​

  • more exhausted than before
  • walking slower than before
  • participating in less physical activity than before
  • weaker grip strength i.e.: unable to carry heavy objects as before
  • experience unintentional weight loss
  • may also feel more depressed/down/hopeless than before

D​o consult your doctor if you or your loved ones experience these symptoms so that early identification and treatment of frailty can be carried out to delay the onset and progression of frailty.

What are the risk factors of frailty?

  • Advanced age
  • Female sex
  • Low socioeconomic position
  • Living alone/loneliness
  • Multiple chronic diseases
  • Taking multiple medications
  • Obesity
  • Malnutrition
  • Impaired cognition and depression
  • Physical inactivity
  • Low protein intake
  • Increased alcohol consumption
  • Smoking​

Frailty Management

​Management of frailty can be categorised into these three aspects:

​1. Physical well-being​​

  • Provide treatment and control for chronic medical conditions
  • Address visual, hearing and eating problems
  • Address polypharmacy - review and adjust medications
  • Identify and treat potential reversible medical conditions
  • Exercise regularly; stay active
  • Eat well to ensure adequate nutrition
  • Prevent falls by evaluating the home

2. Psychological well-being

  • Look out for problems of low mood and treat appropriately
  • Look out for memory difficulties and address appropriately
  • Maintain a positive outlook

Social well-being

  • Remain connected by engaging in social activities
  • Have a strong support network​​​

Click to read more about frailty management:

Frailty and exercise​

Frailty and nutrition​

Frailty and polypharmacy​

- Article contributed by ​Geriatric Medicine, Department of Integrated Care -

Senior Health; Caregiving

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