Factors leading to frailty in elderly and its complications identified

NPs should be aware of signs that may be related to frailty when evaluating elderly patients.

Distinguishing between an elderly woman who is robust and one who is frail
Distinguishing between an elderly woman who is robust and one who is frail

NEW ORLEANS — Age, walking speed, handgrip, alcohol use, and risk for metabolic syndrome are significant factors in distinguishing between an elderly woman who is robust and one who is frail, according to research presented at the American Association of Nurse Practitioners 2015 meeting.

“Frailty can lead to many diseases and also decrease one's quality of life, especially in elderly people,” said Ching-Hwa Hsu, RN, MS, of Cheng Hsin General Hospital in Taipei City, Taiwan, and colleagues. “Nurse practitioners in various settings should be aware of the signs that may be related to frailty when evaluating elderly patients.”

The researchers studied 216 women aged 65 years and older who met three out of the five criteria for frailty established by the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's Cardiovascular Health Study (weight loss, weakness, slowness, poor endurance, and low physical activity). 

They collected data on physical activity using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) and on symptoms of depression using the Taiwan Geriatric Depression Scale (TGDS-5). 

The researchers assessed the significance of age, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, waist circumference, handgrip, walking speed, smoking habits, alcohol use, education level, metabolic risk, and conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia as factors contributing to frailty.

In addition to finding that age, walking speed, handgrip, alcohol use, and risk for metabolic syndrome showed significance as factors predicting frailty in their elderly female cohort, the researchers determined that greater physical activity and lower depression scores were associated with robustness.

In a separate study, Chia-Te Chen in the Department of Nursing at the National Cheng Kung University Hospital in Tainan, Taiwan, and colleagues, reported that frailty in the elderly combined with poor nutrition could put this population at risk for compromised skin integrity and pressure sores. 

The researchers studied 94 frail elderly persons aged an average of 77 years and determined that 15 had a pressure ulcer. Age and nutritional status were the factors significantly related to skin damage in this study's cohort. The investigators suggested that providers monitor the nutrition status of frail elderly persons and initiate nutrition support services early for patients in whom malnutrition is likely.

Reference

  1. Hwa Hsu CC et al. Poster Session. Presented at: AANP 2015. June 10-14; New Orleans. 
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