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Seniors with Frail Health Often Improperly Screened, Face Greater Risks

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A few months ago, we came across this article on the website called HealthDay. It reveals the disturbing fact that many physicians fail to properly screen their senior surgery patients for signs of frail health. As a result, these patients and their families face much longer than expected recovery times and must often cope with a host of related problems that could have been anticipated had proper screening taken place. If you’re caring for a parent or spouse whose health is frail, this is an important article for you.

Click here to read this article, titled “Older Surgery Patients Should Be Screened for Frailty.” It could save your loved one’s life.

The article cites a just-published study in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery in which doctors screened 125 patients (average age: 70) for signs of frailty. What were these signs? According to the article, “The frailty screening checked for five traits: unintentional weight loss, weakness (grip strength), exhaustion, low activity level and slow gait.” The most common of these traits was exhaustion, while the tendency to walk slowly and tentatively (“a slow gait”) was the least common trait recorded. All of these seniors were being evaluated for major surgery involving the chest area.

Surprisingly, more than two-thirds (69 percent) of these seniors were discovered in the screening process to be either frail or “pre-frail,” meaning their health was leaning toward recognized signs of frailty. The study authors concluded that this high number suggests that “the problem [of frailty] may be seriously under-recognized” when evaluating seniors for surgery and preparing them and their families for the recovery process to follow.

This pattern of misdiagnosis of some of the common health conditions faced by seniors is part of the reason we here at AgingOptions strongly recommend our clients have a geriatric physician (or geriatrician) as the quarterback of their health care team. Geriatricians have received special training in the care of their senior patients, and they know what to look for and what medical situations demand special precautions. With one of these specialists managing your health care (or that of your loved one) you are far less likely to suffer from the kind of medical oversight described in the HealthDay article.

What happens when surgeons fail to assess that their senior patients may be in recognizably frail health? HealthDay reports, “Frailty increases the odds for surgical complications and higher health costs. Frail patients are likely to spend more time in the hospital and to be discharged to a rehabilitation facility instead of home. They also are more likely to be readmitted to the hospital and to have a poorer quality of life, according to the study.” Knowing these dangers could cause families to prepare differently for surgery, and could certainly cause physicians to proceed more cautiously.

Whatever retirement choices you’re facing, we here at AgingOptions stand ready to be your resource for all information pertaining to aging and retirement. We can refer you to a geriatrician in your area, for example. If you and your family have health care decisions to make, we can also act as an objective third party to help you convene a family planning conference. (As we always say, “Aging is a family affair.”)  But of course there is far more to retirement than planning for your health care needs, as important as that is. A truly complete retirement plan, which we call a LifePlan, will also help you make certain your financial strategy is carefully mapped out for the long haul. Your LifePlan encompasses all your legal affairs and helps you plan for your best housing options. Finally, your LifePlan involves those closest to you, ensuring that your loved ones know and support your plans for the future.

Creating your personalized LifePlan doesn’t have to be overwhelming! You can quickly discover how the process works, and get many of your questions answered, by attending a free, no-obligation LifePlanning Seminar. We offer these highly popular, information-packed sessions at locations throughout the area. For dates, times and online registration, all you have to do is click here – or contact us during the week and we’ll gladly assist you.

Whatever your retirement questions, let us help you find the answers. We’ll look forward to meeting you at a LifePlanning Seminar soon. Or if you prefer to come meet us in our office, please call.

(originally reported at

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