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Health Care Providers Should Regard Frailty as a Predictor for Future Falls

The older population is highly heterogeneous. Although the general development of diseases and disabilities is similar as they age, the trajectory and rate of change in health and functional ability is widely varied in each individual and those with the same chronological age can have extremely different biological ages. Thus, it is difficult to measure the heterogeneity of the aging process in older people.

Frailty can be used as a potential concept to quantify the overall health diversity of older adults. Frailty is characterized as a biological syndrome that decreases reserve capacity in a number of physiologic systems and increased vulnerability to stressors due to age-related cumulative deficits. People generally develop frailty as they age. Frailty is known to be associated with multiple negative health outcomes, such as disability, falls, hospitalization, institutionalization, and death. Among these, falls is a primary cause of mortality in elderly people.

A recent study analyzed the evidence of frailty as a marker for future falls among a cohort of older adults. The results of the study showed that frailty is a significant predictor of future falls, despite the variety of criteria used to define frailty. Moreover, the future fall risk in association with frailty seemed to be greater in men than in women.

Given the hazardous effects of falls in elderly people, it is crucial that health care providers, especially those working in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospitals, regard frailty as a risk for future falling. Residents of long-term care facilities should be provided safe and healthy environments that aim to prevent detrimental events, such as falls, from occurring.