Insights: Functional decline

Where this term comes from and what does it mean in the context of frailty?

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The definition of frailty is hotly debated in the clinical literature which describes frailty as a physical condition or as a broader condition which includes psychological and social elements.

Collard et al (2012) state that “frailty is important because it constitutes conditions of greater risk of adverse health outcomes, such as falls, less mobility, less independence, hospitalization, disability, and death.”

Intelesant use the phrase “functional decline” to describe the gradual deterioration that individuals notice, and families and friends observe. Functional activities include getting around, washing and dressing, interacting with others, and memory. Often it is difficulties with these tasks that require assistance at home rather than management or treatment for a medical condition, and that is why we are focusing on this area.

Ferrer et al (2013) recognised that “Functional status is a central factor in frailty” and that managing frailty should start earlier. Our approach is to enable families and services to do this using functional decline as the starting point for further conversations.