Frailty: Evaluation and Management

Am Fam Physician. 2021 Feb 15;103(4):219-226.


Frailty, which is a geriatric syndrome that affects 5% to 17% of older adults, is a state of increased vulnerability across multiple health domains that leads to adverse health outcomes. Frail older adults are at increased risk of falls, disability, hospitalizations, and death. Frailty may initially be overlooked or incorrectly identified as part of the normal aging process because of the variable nature of the presentation and diagnosis. Symptoms include generalized weakness, exhaustion, slow gait, poor balance, decreased physical activity, cognitive impairment, and weight loss. There is no current recommendation for routine screening. A comprehensive geriatric assessment can identify risk factors and symptoms that suggest frailty. Several validated frailty assessment tools can evaluate a patient for frailty. Patients are diagnosed as not-frail, prefrail, or frail. Patients with a larger number of frail attributes are at higher risk of poor outcomes. The management of frail patients must be individualized and tailored to each patient's goals of care and life expectancy. Physical activity and balance exercises may be suitable for patients who are less frail. Palliative care and symptom control may be appropriate for those who are more frail.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Curriculum
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Education, Medical, Continuing
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly / statistics & numerical data*
  • Frailty / diagnosis*
  • Frailty / therapy*
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States