What defines frailty?
Frailty is not an inevitable part of ageing as it is often thought. In fact, through screening tests available today, symptoms of frailty can be detected, and any further deterioration can be prevented through lifestyle changes.
In a study led by Benetas and the Australian Government, frailty, including pre-frailty, is viewed as an “invisible condition” that can creep up without being noticed. Older people who are frail may appear to function reasonably well in the community and therefore are unaware that they are becoming more frail.
The study also found that 38% of older people aged 65 and over were in the pre-frail category which commonly leads to general frailty.
Unfortunately frailty leads to a series of problems which include poor mobility, increased falls, more hospital visits, a higher likelihood of admission to residential care, a lower quality of life, depression, loneliness and cognitive decline. Using screening tests, it is possible to identify the level of frailty and stop this decline with some lifestyle changes, which will help people live a better quality of life well into their older years.
What are the symptoms of frailty?
If you have noticed any of the following symptoms, please talk to us in the clinic or see your local GP who will do a more detailed assessment.
- Unintentional weight loss or a significantly reduced appetite
- Exhaustion and low energy levels
- Muscle weakness
- Slow walking speed, slower gait
- Low levels of physical activity
The Clinical Frail Scale in Australia is a widely used scale to determine the level of frailty in an older person defining 9 levels of frailty as indicated below:
Levels of frailty
- Very fit
- Well without active disease
- Well, with treated comorbid disease
- Apparently vulnerable
- Mildly frail
- Moderately frail
- Severely frail or
- Very severely frail
- Terminally ill
The good news is that with some lifestyle changes, you can become healthier and stronger and prevent further frailty from occurring or even reverse some of the effects of frailty on the quality of your life.
By surrounding yourself with knowledgeable and experienced health practitioners such as podiatrists, physiotherapists, chiropractors and other allied healthcare professionals, you will be able to improve your overall health and develop a better quality of life as you age.
At Sanders Podiatry Clinics, we look after the feet of many older South Australians, helping them maintain foot strength and flexibility, posture and balance.
7 ways to prevent frailty
1. Look after your ageing feet and keep them in good walking order
As you get older, degeneration of tissues, ligaments and bones occurs as part of the ageing process. The extent of this depends on your level of activity, health and wellbeing and previous injuries. Feet often get overlooked until they cause pain and begin preventing people from going about their normal day.
Wearing correct shoes, maintaining an ideal weight, good foot hygiene and attending to pain or other foot problems will help you keep your feet in good walking order for much longer.
Read “Caring for ageing feet – how podiatry helps keep your feet in good walking order!”
2. Do weight bearing exercises
Weight bearing exercises will keep the fluid circulating in your joints, maintaining mobility and reducing pain. You will also maintain muscle mass, bone density, flexibility and strength which all add up to good balance.
About one-third of people aged 65 years and over fall once or more annually because they have not maintained their sense of balance. Exercise will help you maintain balance and prevent falls. If you stop exercising, your muscles lose strength and flexibility, and your balance is affected, increasing the risk of falling.
3. Get walking!
Just 15 minutes of walking a per day provides several health benefits from reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, cholesterol and high blood pressure to improving flexibility and coordination and reducing symptoms of depression.
The Heart Foundation walking group https://walking.heartfoundation.org.au/ may have a walking group in your area or check with your local council.
For more information about the benefits of walking, read Get walking – and experience the many proven health benefits!
4. Stay socially active
Getting out and about and staying socially active and engaged in your community helps you remain healthy as you get older, both physically and mentally. When you start to feel frail, you unconsciously begin moving less and staying at home more which means you may end up feeling isolated and lonely.
You get less physical exercise than you need and you’re not getting the social stimulation that is important for emotional wellbeing. This leads to problems both physically and mentally.
Staying socially active and engaged in your community, connected with friends and family will help you maintain your confidence and purpose as an older Australian and will boost your mental and emotional health. Remember that you are never too old and it is never too late to meet new people, take on a new hobby, learn a new language or make new friends.
Find out more about your local community and ways to get involved. Your local council is a good place to start.
5. Look after your brain
Physical exercise will help your muscles but it also helps your brain.
Exercise stimulates the flow of blood and delivers more oxygen and nutrients to your brain. This will help to improve your memory and general cognitive decline. But it’s not just exercise that looks after your brain. The brain changes and research has shown that the region of the brain first impacted by dementia is the hippocampus, which is associated with spatial awareness, memory and learning. By learning new hobbies, getting out and about walking, learning a new language or musical instrument, you are developing new neural pathways and stimulating the brain to continue growing and evolving.
6. Maintain a diet high in protein, veggies, whole grains and fats
As people get older, it’s not unusual for their appetite to reduce. Therefore it becomes even more important that when you do eat, you are consuming a diet high in protein rich foods and vegetables, whole grains and fats. Your body needs repairing which proteins provide the essential building blocks for along with energy derived from carbohydrates. A balanced diet will help you maintain good health, in turn maintaining your brain health, mood and confidence.
7. Take care to avoid diabetes
Good nutrition will also keep conditions such as diabetes at bay. Diabetes increases the chances of developing problems in your feet. In fact diabetes symptoms often show up in your feet first, we’ll help with any concerns you may have.
Common problems that occur because of diabetes are peripheral neuropathy which is essentially nerve damage, or peripheral vascular disease which is poor circulation.
For more information about diabetes, read our article on Diabetes foot care and guidelines for healthy feet.
Give your tired feet the love and attention they need
We work with many older South Australians in our clinics and help them maintain good foot health. We recommend regular podiatry appointments to check your feet alignment so that you don’t get foot pain or referred pain in your ankles, knees or hips.
We may recommend exercises, orthotics or some self help techniques at home to keep your feet healthy and flexible.
Related article: “Caring for ageing feet – how podiatry helps keep your feet in good walking order!”
Our gentle and experienced podiatrists are located in Linden Park, Stirling and Mount Barker. Phone us to make an appointment at one of our clinics.