Managing frailty as a long-term condition

Frailty is a distinctive late-life health state in which apparently minor stressor events are associated with adverse health outcomes. This article considers how the conceptualisation of frailty as a long-term condition offers new management approaches based on systematically applied preventative and proactive interventions. Frailty shares the key features of the common longterm conditions: it can be ameliorated but not cured; it is costly at an individual and societal level; it is progressive; it impacts adversely on life experience and it has episodic crises. The recognition of frailty as a long-term condition is not merely a semantic issue-a wide range of benefits can be anticipated. Primary care-based registers for frailty could be established and chronic disease models applied systematically for co-ordinated and person-centred preventative and proactive care. A team approach is a key component of long-term condition management, incorporating support, follow-up and behaviour change interventions that go beyond the scope of a traditional medical approach. This approach would ideally require changes in secondary care to embrace greater community-based working and closer relationships with the primary health and care team. Although our understanding of interventions to modify or treat frailty has improved, there is considerable scope for further development. Identifying frailty as a long-term condition would be an important step in distinguishing people with frailty as a discrete population for new research.