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Frailty better predictor of outcomes than age, home care study finds

Closeup of a lonely senior man lost in thought , looking away

Frailty may be a better predictor than age when determining how older adults will fare at home one year after receiving critical care in hospital, according to a new study. 

A team led by researchers from the University of Waterloo analysed data from more than 24,000 older adults receiving home care in Ontario, Canada, who were subsequently admitted into an intensive-care unit (ICU). 

They applied three different measures for baseline frailty and found that an individual’s level of frailty was linked to survival one year later. The frailest ICU survivors had only a one in five chance of living to one year after discharge.

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The researchers believe the concept of frailty can best be used to guide conversations about advance care planning with home care clients and their families.

“For instance, a frail individual may express the wish to forego ICU care given a poor prognosis,” said senior author George Heckman, a professor in the School of Public Health Sciences and Schlegel-UW Research Chair in Geriatric Medicine at the Research Institute for Aging. “Additional research should focus on post-ICU functional and quality of life outcomes.”

Luke Turcotte, first author and a postdoctoral fellow at Waterloo, stressed that even though frailty levels could be a key measure when determining who will benefit from critical care, it is important to differentiate between frailty and disability, particularly for individuals with chronic and stable disabilities. 

“The concept of frailty relates to age-associated vulnerability, and thus its application needs to be limited to older persons with complex health problems,” said senior author George Heckman, a professor in the School of Public Health Sciences and Schlegel-UW Research Chair in Geriatric Medicine at the Research Institute for Aging.

Previous research had analysed smaller data sets, with similar conclusions. For this study, the researchers used data from interRAI standardized health assessments, used in home care in almost all of Canada and internationally.

Tags : ageingfrailtyhealthy ageingstudy
Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke