The aging 'frail' identity: creating positive identities with older people with frailty in a day hospital setting

Authors: Cox, C., Ellis-Hill, C., Board, M. and Vassalo, M.

Conference: BSG 2017 Annual Conference

Dates: 5-7 July 2017


Frailty is a multidimensional health condition specifically associated with aging that occurs when a number of deficits reduces a person’s resilience to illness and adverse events (Clegg et al. 2013). Half of all people in the UK aged over 85 are estimated to be living with frailty and this is expected to rise, however a recent report states that only half of older people with frailty are receiving effective healthcare interventions (BGS and RCGP 2015). The language and discourse around the condition can act as a barrier to engaging with older people who do not wish to be defined as frail (Age UK and BGS, 2015). People experiencing frailty often report low levels of wellbeing particularly in relation to their sense of identity and increasing dependency (Andrew et al. 2012), this can lead to poorer health outcomes and reduced engagement in therapeutic interventions (Twigg and Martin, 2015).To date, frailty research has centred on reducing the risk of adverse health outcomes by focusing on physical interventions and measurements of frailty. However there is little exploration of the lived experience of the person with frailty, particularly in relation to how frailty impacts upon their understanding of self and identity. This ethnographic study aims to understand how patients’ needs are met in relation to their sense of self and identity within a Day Hospital environment in order to determine key processes which could be transferred to support future best clinical practice in other health care settings.

Age UK and British Geriatric Society, 2015. Frailty: Language and Perceptions. London: Age UK and British Geriatric Society. Andrew, M. K., Fisk, J. D. and Rockwood, K., 2012. Psychological well-being in relation to frailty: A frailty identity crisis? International Psychogeriatrics, 24 (8), 1347-1353.

British Geriatric Society and The Royal College of General Practitioners, 2015. Fit for Frailty 2 - Developing, commissioning and managing services for people living with fraility in community settings. London. Clegg, A., Young, J., Iliffe, S., Rikkert, M. O. and Rockwood, K., 2013. Frailty in elderly people. Lancet (London, England), 381 (9868), 752-762.

Twigg, J. and Martin, W., 2015. The challenge of cultural gerontology. The Gerontologist, 55 (3), 353-359.

Source: Manual