Recognising older frail patients near the end of life: What next?

Magnolia Cardona-Morell*, Ebony Lewis, Sanjay Suman, Cilla Haywood, Marcella Williams, Audrey Anne Brousseau, Sally Greenaway, Ken Hillman, Elsa Dent

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Frailty is a state of vulnerability resulting from cumulative decline in many physiological systems during a lifetime. It is progressive and considered largely irreversible, but its progression may be controlled and can be slowed down and its precursor –pre-frailty- can be treated with multidisciplinary intervention. The aim of this narrative review is to provide an overview of the different ways of measuring frailty in community settings, hospital, emergency, general practice and residential aged care; suggest occupational groups who can assess frailty in various services; discuss the feasibility of comprehensive geriatric assessments; and summarise current evidence of its management guidelines. We also suggest practical recommendations to recognise frail patients near the end of life, so discussions on goals of care, advance care directives, and shared decision-making including early referrals to palliative and supportive care can take place before an emergency arises. We acknowledge the barriers to systematically assess frailty and the absence of consensus on best instruments for different settings. Nevertheless, given its potential consequences including prolonged suffering, disability and death, we recommend identification of frailty levels should be universally attempted in older people at any health service, to facilitate care coordination, and honest discussions on preferences for advance care with patients and their caregivers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-90
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Internal Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


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