About Physiatry

About Physiatry

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Geriatric Frailty

Condition: “Geriatric frailty” is the result of decline in multiple physical functions and health that some individuals experience as they get older.

Background: It is important to recognize that frailty is not a natural result of aging, but instead a condition. While 30% of older adults in the U.S. are considered frail by age 90, 70% are not.

Risk Factors: Risk of frailty increases with age. Women are more at risk than men, and people in lower income levels are also more at risk.

History and Symptoms: Frail elderly persons often experience muscle weakness, falls, balance and walking issues. Additional symptoms may include poor vision, cognitive (thinking) difficulties and depression. 

Physical Exam: Physicians check a wide range of functions, such as a person’s muscle coordination and strength, vision, hearing and cognition.   

Diagnostic Process: A person is considered frail if three or more of the following five criteria are met: weight loss of 10 pounds or more in the past year, exhaustion, weakness, slow walking speed and decreased physical activity.

Rehab Management: Each individual should have his/her medication regimen reviewed to minimize, as best possible, the overall number of medications and to choose medications and dosages to prevent side effects.  Nutritional status should also be assessed.   Endurance and resistance exercise is recommended for nearly all individuals since these exercises develop muscle.  Exercise programs should also include balance training to prevent falls.

Other Resources for Patients and Families: Families and caregivers often put their own finances and health at risk while caregiving. Resources such as the Eldercare Locator—a nationwide governmental service that connects older Americans and caregivers with information on senior services—can help.


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