Background and purpose: Frailty has been recognized as a medical syndrome characterized by decreased physiological reserve and vulnerability to poor resolution of homeostasis. Frailty is common in nursing homes and as many as 90% of nursing home patients are frail or prefrail. Previous studies have examined frailty as a risk factor for nursing home placement and yielded inconsistent results. The current study aims to systematically review the literature and to conduct a meta-analysis to combine the risk measures to provide the evidence on frailty as a predictor of nursing home placement among community-dwelling older adults.
Methods: A systematic literature search was performed in July 2015 using 6 databases (Scopus, Embase, CINAHL Plus, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and the Cochrane Library). Any cohort studies examining associations between frailty and risk of subsequent nursing home placement among community-dwelling older adults published from 2000 to July 2015 were potentially eligible. The numbers of those who were admitted to nursing homes and who were not, according to frailty categories, were used to calculate pooled odds ratio (OR) using fixed-effect models. The included studies were assessed for heterogeneity, methodological quality, and publication bias. The systematic literature search and hand-search identified 885 potentially relevant studies, among which 5 studies including 3528 community-dwelling older adults were selected for this review.
Results: Meta-analyses were performed using data from these studies and showed that both frailty and prefrailty significantly predicted nursing home placement (5 studies: pooled OR = 5.58, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.94-10.60, P < .00001; 3 studies: pooled OR = 3.26, 95% CI = 1.21-8.78, P = .02, respectively). Heterogeneity across the studies was low or moderate and there was no evidence of publication bias.
Discussion: Frailty generally progresses but can also be potentially modified by appropriate interventions such as physical exercise. Evidence especially has shown that aerobic and resistance exercises improve frailty components. Furthermore, a multifactorial interdisciplinary intervention, including tailored exercise programs, has shown to decrease prevalence of frailty among frail community-dwelling older adults. It is noteworthy that adherence to the exercise programs was high and adverse events were not reported in most of the trials. These findings suggest that physical exercise can potentially prevent or reverse frailty and may lead to decreased risks of nursing home placement in older adults.
Conclusions: This systematic review and meta-analysis study is the first to report pooled evidence that both frailty and prefrailty are significant predictors of nursing home placement among community-dwelling older adults.