A new study led by the University of Adelaide has challenged a common misconception about the frailty and functional status of nursing home residents. The research, which was conducted on 548 residents from South Australian Resthaven aged care homes, found that almost half of the residents either remained stable or improved over the course of 12 months.
This groundbreaking study is the first of its kind to examine frailty changes in nursing home residents over such a long period.
Dr Mark Q Thompson, an Adjunct Titleholder at the University of Adelaide, emphasised the significance of the research. “Our finding that deterioration is not inevitable is a major challenge to the idea held by some that the focus in this setting should be mainly on palliative care. Instead, opportunities for promoting function and well-being are likely to have positive effects, even in the frailest residents. Focusing on nutrition, exercise and diabetes management are important ways for maintaining the well-being and quality of life of frail residents living in residential aged care.”
The study based the measurement of frailty change using the concept of minimally important difference (MID). “In our study, a 6% change in a resident’s frailty was found to be meaningful,” Dr Thompson said.
Interestingly, the researchers found that even among the frailest residents, stability and improvement in frailty status were possible. Thirty-two per cent of participants remained stable over 12 months, while 14% improved. The study identified malnutrition and diabetes as significant predictors of frailty status worsening.
Dr Thompson suggested that fixing the fundamentals of care is an important step in reducing the nutritional risk of aged care residents and subsequently reducing the risk of worsening frailty. The research builds on the findings of a previous study, which found that aged care residents who move more and interact with their environment are more likely to live longer, have fewer falls, and have a higher quality of life.
The study has far-reaching implications for the care of elderly residents living in nursing homes. By focusing on promoting function and well-being through nutrition, exercise, and diabetes management, nursing homes can help maintain the quality of life of their residents and reduce the risk of frailty.
Source: University of Adelaide.