Additional Teaching/Learning Resources

When planning the sessions coaching sessions for this project there were two ‘guests’ we were going to invite to discuss their work with you, Janis McDonald who is the Chief Officer of Deaf Scotland who was going to discuss frailty and hearing and sight loss and Alison Bunce, the Programme Lead for Compassionate Inverclyde who is a Queen’s Nursing Institute Nurse. See https://www.qnis.org.uk/queens-nurse/alison-bunce/ who was going to discuss Compassionate Inverclyde with you.

Since they were unable to speak to you in person online they decided to record what they were going to discuss for you to watch. Both videos are below.

The second video is below:

So far in the programme we have been using text and video resources but there are a number of resources that exist in podcast form that we have not utilised. Podcasts tend to be a bit longer than video resources but you can download and listen to them in your own time. So you can listed to them from your ‘phone, on a smart speaker, on a walk, in the car etc.. You can of course also listen to them and share them with your own team and as they tend to be published in series, then you and your team members can listen to those you/they want to hear or feel are most relevant at the time.

The first series we are going to point you to are a series of podcats from Eat Well Age Well is a national project tackling malnutrition in older people living at home in Scotland. Eat Well Age Well is brought to you by award winning Scottish Charity Food Train. The website for the project is at https://www.eatwellagewell.org.uk/

To access the first blog press play below

Their podcasts are all about sharing and discussing how we can support older people in Scotland to eat well, age well and live well. See https://anchor.fm/eatwellagewell#:~:text=Eat%20Well%20Age%20Well%20is,age%20well%20and%20live%20well.

The Royal National Institute for the Blind also have a series of Podcasts to aid in supporting people with sight loss. There are three different podcast series, focusing on:

Each podcast is less than 15 minutes long. They are designed for older people living with sight loss as well as those family members, friends and carers who support them, as well as anyone who supports and helps adults with complex needs – both in a home or care setting.

Another larger podcast resource which has a wider remit than just frailty is a resource called MDT Education on Ageing: which has been designed for anyone working with older adults. They are part of a podcast family of site called the Hearing Aid Podcasts. You can access all of their podcasts (there are 9 series) at http://thehearingaidpodcasts.org.uk/

A guide to all their podcasts can be found at http://thehearingaidpodcasts.org.uk/previous-series/

Covid-19 and Frailty

During this pandemic, older people living with frailty and long-term conditions will continue to experience episodes of ill-health, falls or other unforeseen events. While COVID-19 will be the main concern for the healthcare system as a whole, much of the care that community and social care teams provide will be the routine care that they always provided. Efforts will be made to provide more care at home or in community settings, keeping older people out of hospital until it becomes necessary.

A key reason for this is that frailty is a strong predictor of adverse outcomes for older people hospitalised because of COVID-19 infection. A study of an acute hospital ward in Greater Manchester has shown how risk of death from COVID-19 increases with age, frailty and comorbidity. The study which you can access here examined the outcomes of 215 patients with COVID according to age group and levels of frailty, 86 of which sadly died. Tragically, 16% of the patients who were younger than 65 years died, 37% of the patients aged 65 to 75 years died: 53% of the patients aged 75 to 85 years died , and 62% of the patients aged above 85 years died. Frailty was measured using the Rockwood Clinical Frailty Score which scores people from 1 (very fit) to 9 (terminally ill), 16% of patients with a score of less than 5 died, 42% of patients with a score of 5 died, 67 % of patients with a score of 6 died, 82% of patients with score of 7 and 8 died, and 100 % of patients with a score of 9 died early. There is no doubt that avoiding the illness if you are over 65 and frail is the most effective strategy until there is a widely available effective vaccine.

It is highly likely that some older people you are looking after will unfortunately die from this disease or will die with this disease from their underlying health conditions over the coming months. It is important to remember that while older people are the most likely to be seriously affected by COVID-19, many will recover from it. Treatment for the virus must be determined by clinical need and best evidence and not by age alone.

It is worth noting also that there is a growing body of evidence that indicates that COVID-19 can occur with atypical presentations, especially in older people. For example in Italy, 24% of COVID-19 patients who died during pandemic had no fever, 27% had no dyspnea, and 61% had no cough. There are also descriptions of older people with COVID-19 presenting with a history of falls or delirium suggesting that there is a need for an early assessment of frailty in the community and careful monitoring of physical and cognitive status during this current period of social restriction In addition, the lack of physical activity in those restricted or those sheilding may be contributing to muscle mass loss, weakness, and falls, as well as having an impact on their mental health status. Again early assessment of frailty can be extremely useful to identify frail people who at risk of deterioration due to these factors.

Finally, people recovering post-COVID-19 may still exhibit extra-pulmonary manifestations, including neurological, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal disorders increasing their likelihood of frailty or worsening already existent frailty. Hence, most of the older people post virus may require functional, neuromotor, respiratory, and cardiac rehabilitation, which all warrant frailty assessment. 

The key message in all of this is that frailty assessment which is being encouraged by NICE for all older adults being admitted hospital is equally and perhaps more valuable for all people in the community at risk from the COVID-19 virus. It should perhaps be considered as a vital sign, at least until the current crisis is over.

On a practical note it also worth noting that the British Geriatric Society have compiled a page of resources for keeping older people safe at home. It is particularly relevant for shielding and isolated older people but also applies more generally to older people who live without assistance in their own homes and might be exposed to other risk factors or hazards. You can find it at:

https://www.bgs.org.uk/resources/keeping-older-people-safe-and-well-at-home

They also have a page of wider advice designed for health and social care professionals which can be found at : https://www.bgs.org.uk/resources/resource-series/coronavirus-and-older-people

Guidance for providing care and support at home to people who have had COVID-19 was published by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) this week (14th of November 2020).You can find it at:

https://www.scie.org.uk/care-providers/coronavirus-covid-19/home-care/recovering-at-home

End of Life Care in Frailty

There is little need for us within this project to write about end of life care in frailty because an extensive, near comprehensive and free to access resource on this topic prepared by the British Geriatrics Society (BGS) already exits.

Rather than condense what this resource says we will just introduce it to you. The aim of the BGS guidance is to support clinicians and others in considering the needs of and providing high quality care for frail older people as they move towards the end of their lives.  It sets out to prompt and support timely discussions about preferences for care, ideally at a time which facilitates the input of the older person themselves. They hope their guidance will provide practical advice to help staff working with frail older patients so they can provide them with the best opportunity to live and die well. 

You can access this resource at: https://www.bgs.org.uk/resources/resource-series/end-of-life-care-in-frailty

It is worth noting that in the BGS End of Life Care in Frailty resource, where it discusses Advanced Care Planning refers you to the Advance Care Planning Resource for England and Wales at http://advancecareplan.org.uk/

Scotland has its own Anticipatory Care Planning Resource which has an earlier focus designed to give control to people with long term conditions control over their management plans at an earlier stage than end of life. You can find the Scottish Resource at https://www.nhsinform.scot/campaigns/anticipatory-care-planning

There is also an Anticipatory Care Planning Toolkit available at Healthcare Improvements iHub. See https://ihub.scot/project-toolkits/anticipatory-care-planning-toolkit/anticipatory-care-planning-toolkit/

They have also produced a number of videos about Anticipatory Care Planning of which this one, Anticipatory Care Plans (ACP’s) in a Care Home may have the most resonance when you consider ACP’s for the frail people that you encounter.

You can watch it here.

Mental Well-being in Later Life

Much of the literature on Frailty has focused on physical health, however mental health including cognition, sleep, social interactions and positive aspects like well-being are just as important.

In 2014 in the UK general population about 300 in every 1,000 people experienced mental health problems. Of those 300 people, 230 visited a GP and 102 were diagnosed as having a mental health problem. For people with frailty who are at higher risk of mental ill-health, these figures will to be higher. National Surveys of NHS patients indicate that approximately 91 per cent of people with a mental health problem are treated within the primary care system, meaning that very few are referred to specialist mental health services. Figures also suggest that at least 25% of individuals with symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety do not report them to their GP. People living with frailty will behave similarly. There is also an assumption by some that mental health problems are a ‘normal’ aspect of ageing, but most older people don’t develop mental health problems, and they can be helped if they do.

Healthcare professionals in the community are ideally positioned to make a difference. Age UK has identified key steps that every healthcare professional can take:  

  • Remember that mental health is just as important as physical.
  • Try to get into the habit of asking about the emotional well-being of the people you see. 
  • Look out for signs that your patients are struggling with their mental health. 
  • Start the conversation. It can seem awkward bringing up mental health but older people do say that they want to be asked and find talking useful.    
  • Think about language. Older people can be put off by terms such as mental health and depression. Try to use more informal language. 
  • Remember mental health problems are not inevitable. With the right support older people can recover. 

We have looked at two of the biggest causes of mental illness in frail older people already. See the earlier post on Loneliness which is at http://frailtymatters.uws.ac.uk/2019/12/04/the-value-of-social-support/ and our post about Dementia which is at http://frailtymatters.uws.ac.uk/2020/02/27/dementia-some-guidance/

One of the main issues we have not examined relating to mental health is DEPRESSION. It has been estimated that 1 in 4 older people have symptoms of depression that require treatment, but fewer than 1 in 6 older people will seek help. Care home residents are also at an increased risk of depression. Depression in later life can be a major cause of ill-health and can have a severe effect on physical and mental well-being. Older people are particularly vulnerable to factors that lead to depression such as bereavement, physical disability, illness and loneliness. Depression in older people can be treated effectively through talking therapies and antidepressants. See the NICE Clinical Knowledge Summary on Depression mentioned below. Effective interventions to prevent depression in older people include reducing loneliness and isolation through encouraging learning, physical activity and any form social interaction including volunteering. Many of these are difficult at this time but a useful guide to ‘Keeping Well at Home’ which was devised for all older people whose interactions are restricted currently because of COVID-19 has been produced by the Healthy Ageing Research Group at Manchester University. You can download the booklet at http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=49104

There is limited guidance from the Royal Colleges for those in primary care on what to do to maintain older people’s mental well-being but there is NICE guidance that you can refer to. NICE Guideline 32 is all about mental well being and independence in older people and there is also a NICE Quality Standard 137 which is on the same topic. You can look at the NICE flowchart and download both documents at

NICE (2020) Mental wellbeing and independence in older people overview: Interactive Flow Chart

You might also find the following NICE Clinical Knowledge summary on Depression useful. https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/depression/

England (2014), writing for the Royal College of GP’s has stated that community practitioners need to take responsibility for coordinating and signposting to services beyond health care, in particular social care, housing and benefits to effectively tackle mental well-being in older people. The more collaborative form of working integrated care heralds will move community staff from gatekeepers to that of navigators. Community healthcare workers need to take responsibility for co-ordination and signposting to services beyond health care and builds bridges with many community services, patients’ families and their communities, if improving the mental welfare of our older people is the goal.

If you want to know more about this topic an intersting report to read is by Lee, M. (2006) Promoting mental health and well-being in later life: A first report from the UK Inquiry into Mental Health and Well-Being in Later Life. London, Age Concern & Mental Health Foundation. 

The report highlights discrimination; participation in meaningful activity; relationships; physical health and poverty; as important parts of promoting mental health and well-being that also need to be considered