Frail Persons Project

Primary Health Care and the District Department of Family Practice are working with a number of care providers, as well as caregivers and families, to explore and implement activities to strengthen primary health care for frail persons.

Specifically, we are working toward improving awareness, access and coordination among the many existing programs and services in the Capital Health district and are creating tools and resources for primary care providers.

What is frailty and who is most at risk?

Frailty is a multi-system deterioration, typically in the geriatric population, leading to the inability to respond to physical or psychological stress. This group is highly vulnerable to falls, hospitalisation, disability, dependence, etc. Frailty is most often seen in patients 75 and older with cognitive or physical impairments that interfere with activities of daily living, such as bathing, the ability to prepare food, or take medications as prescribed.

How many frail elderly are in the Capital Health district?

There are no definitive statistics, however, there are likely thousands of frail individuals and tens of thousands on the brink of being frail, in our district. Of interest, there were 23,717 visits to Capital Health’s emergency departments by local patients aged 65 years or older between October 2010 and September 2011. Of these, 68 per cent were repeat visits.

Care of frail persons within Capital Health

Many supports for frail persons are available within Capital Health and in the community. Despite these resources, care for this population can be less than optimal due to:

  • Lack of awareness of the concept and implications of frailty,
  • Lack of access to programs and services for those who are frail, and
  • Lack of coordination among the many existing programs and services.

Who provides formal care for the frail persons?

Frailty requires ongoing care from many care levels and disciplines (e.g., continuing care, gerontology, and social work) and with the aging population, more frail patients are being followed by their primary care physicians. Strengthening primary health care for the frail elderly population enables these patients to age well in their home setting, potentially avoiding unnecessary visits to emergency departments and unplanned hospital admissions. Caring for frail persons in primary care can be challenging as many patients have multiple health problems that are difficult to address in a single visit. These challenges can be minimized with screening techniques or tools as well as a structured care plan involving the patient and their caregivers.

How you can help strengthen primary health care for frail persons

Family physicians and other primary care providers can participate in an advisory committee or focus groups to help implement key elements of the strengthening primary health care for frail persons initiative. Compensation is available for certain provider types.

For more information, or to sign up for one of these opportunities, contact:

Lynn Lowe
Tel: 902-487-0205 
lynn.lowe@cdha.nshealth.ca

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