The Power of Language: Weighing the Pros and Cons of the Term “Frailty” (Nursing Times / Age UK / BGS / BritainThinks)


The “Frailty: Language and Perceptions” report, commissioned by Age UK and the British Geriatrics Society, indicates that use of the word “frailty” could deter older people from accessing services. Medical terminology such as “frailty” (and presumably “geriatric” too?) sometimes arouses strong negative reactions in older people, because of a perceived association with loss of independence and end of life.

The clinical concept of frailty, recently elevated to the level of a syndrome, is construed by medical specialists as a condition which needs to be identified and diagnosed in order that the condition can be managed properly with suitable support.

“Frailty’ is all at once a medical term, an adjective, and a noun, but as the research shows for many older people it feels like a judgement”. Caroline Abrahams, Age UK.

Symptoms of frailty may be reversible. Suggested compromises and practical solutions in handling this dilemma are offered by the report’s recommendations:

  1. Avoiding use of the term frailty or frail in discussions with older people.
  2. Using positive language which promotes awareness of what might be achievable through healthcare interventions.
  3. More focus on independence, enablement, reablement and resilience.
  4. Improving wider understanding of tools such as the Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment (CGA) as part of a positive approach to identifying and planning services to meet patients’ unmet needs.
  5. Raising awareness about how to support older people living with frailty, and encouraging more engagement in self-care (where appropriate).

Full Text Link (Note: This article is free currently, but may soon require a suitable Athens password, a journal subscription or payment for access).


Ford, S. (2015). Nurses called on not to badge older patients as ‘frail’. Nursing Times. July 23rd 2015. [Epub ahead of print].

This relates to:

Full Text Link


Frailty: Language and Perceptions. A report prepared by BritainThinks on behalf of Age UK and the British Geriatrics Society. London: BritainThinks, Age UK and the British Geriatrics Society, June 2015.

About Dementia and Elderly Care News

Dementia and Elderly Care News. Wolverhampton Medical Institute: WMI. (jh)
This entry was posted in Acute Hospitals, Age UK, Charitable Bodies, Commissioning, Community Care, Diagnosis, End of Life Care, For Carers (mostly), For Doctors (mostly), For Nurses and Therapists (mostly), For Researchers (mostly), For Social Workers (mostly), Integrated Care, Management of Condition, Models of Dementia Care, Patient Care Pathway, Patient Information, Person-Centred Care, Personalisation, Practical Advice, Quick Insights, RCN, UK, Universal Interest and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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