Understanding and Ameliorating Frailty in the Elderly

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Frailty in elderly people takes a high toll in personal suffering, disability, mortality, morbidity, and health care costs. Frailty is closely associated with, but is not the same as, comorbidity (multiple coexisting medical conditions), or disability. This article presents overlapping definitions of frailty and summarizes common medical problems in the frail person. All frail people exhibit muscle weakness and many are undernourished. Clinical aspects of frailty are outlined. Frailty can be ameliorated and in some cases reversed by good nutrition, proper medication, attention to vision and hearing, expansion of social networks, and exercise. Exercise recommendations for frail elders and general suggestions for clinicians are presented, with a view toward excellent care.

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