Background: Disability in Activities of Daily Living (ADL) is an adverse outcome of frailty that places a burden on frail elderly people, care providers and the care system. Knowing which physical frailty indicators predict ADL disability is useful in identifying elderly people who might benefit from an intervention that prevents disability or increases functioning in daily life. The objective of this study was to systematically review the literature on the predictive value of physical frailty indicators on ADL disability in community-dwelling elderly people.
Methods: A systematic search was performed in 3 databases (PubMed, CINAHL, EMBASE) from January 1975 until April 2010. Prospective, longitudinal studies that assessed the predictive value of individual physical frailty indicators on ADL disability in community-dwelling elderly people aged 65 years and older were eligible for inclusion. Articles were reviewed by two independent reviewers who also assessed the quality of the included studies.
Results: After initial screening of 3081 titles, 360 abstracts were scrutinized, leaving 64 full text articles for final review. Eventually, 28 studies were included in the review. The methodological quality of these studies was rated by both reviewers on a scale from 0 to 27. All included studies were of high quality with a mean quality score of 22.5 (SD 1.6). Findings indicated that individual physical frailty indicators, such as weight loss, gait speed, grip strength, physical activity, balance, and lower extremity function are predictors of future ADL disability in community-dwelling elderly people.
Conclusions: This review shows that physical frailty indicators can predict ADL disability in community-dwelling elderly people. Slow gait speed and low physical activity/exercise seem to be the most powerful predictors followed by weight loss, lower extremity function, balance, muscle strength, and other indicators. These findings should be interpreted with caution because the data of the different studies could not be pooled due to large variations in operationalization of the indicators and ADL disability across the included studies. Nevertheless, our study suggests that monitoring physical frailty indicators in community-dwelling elderly people might be useful to identify elderly people who could benefit from disability prevention programs.