Why frailty needs vulnerability: A care ethical perspective on hospital care for older patients

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The vulnerability of older hospital patients is increasingly understood in physical terms, often referred to as frailty. This reduces their vulnerability to the functioning body regardless of the psycho-socio-cultural context they are in, and it ignores the role of the hospital environment. This paper starts from a care ethical perspective on care and uses insights from empirical work that shows that hospitalization of older patients is characterized by experiences of uncertainty that give rise to feelings of vulnerability. This paper presents a model that clarifies how vulnerability occurs in the interplay between the embodied subject, others, daily life and the hospital, and shows its dynamic and relational nature. Our complementary perspective of vulnerability is vital for nursing practice in that it starts from the situatedness of the older patient and not only points at what is missing but also at what is of significance to the older patient. Taking into account this perspective helps improving relational care.

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