Health professionals should avoid the term 'frailty' report recommends

Research commissioned by Age UK and the British Geriatrics Society has found the word 'frailty' can deter older people from seeking support

Using the words frail and frailty can provoke a negative reaction among older people who fear they are seen as struggling, says a report published today.

Research by Age UK and the British Society of Geriatrics says health professionals should avoid using the terms when speaking to older people who associate them with a loss of independence and end of life.

The resarch also found that older people were so put off by the terms that they may not seek support even if they experience symptoms of frailty.

The report recommends that health professionals should talk more about independence, enablement and resilience.

Age UK director Caroline Abrahams said: 'Frailty is all at once a medical term, an adjective and a noun, but as research shows, for many older people it feels like a judgement.

'Health and care services need to re-evaluate their use of the word frailty. It would be better to focus on the factors that may be underlying someone's frailty and find solutions to help,' she added.

Adam Gordon at the British Geriatrics Society said frailty has been embraced as a concept by the NHS in an attempt to signpost services delivered by multidisciplinary teams. 

'If the patients we are seeking to help are put off by the very word frail then perhaps we need to reconsider how we refer to such initiatives. We have to find the right words to help our patients,' added Dr Gordon.

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