Growing older often means getting tired faster and moving slower than before. But some older people become very weak, and everyday activities become hard to do. This may be a health problem called frailty.
Frailty is more than just "slowing down." An older adult may be "frail" if a combination of these two things is happening:
Each month WebMD the Magazine puts your questions about weight loss
and fitness to top exercise and motivational experts. This month, John Harvey,
an 86-year-old retired physician, asked for help beginning a fitness routine.
Harvey moved with his wife to a retirement community in Bethesda, Md., about a
year ago. He's never been obese, but at 225 pounds he's leaning more on his
cane and is unsteady on his feet. For advice, we turned to Anthony Absalon, a
fitness trainer at Fox Hill Senior Living...
People who are frail may have trouble doing everyday tasks—going shopping, getting dressed, getting in or out of bed, or using the toilet. They may feel weak and off-balance and worry about falling.
Experts think frailty develops because of changes in how the body works. These body changes are more likely to happen when a person has certain other health problems, such as diabetes or dementia. These other health problems can cause frailty to get worse quickly.
People who are frail are more likely to have depression and to get infections. And it's much harder for them to recover when they get sick or injured.
How can you care for a frail older adult?
Encourage your loved one to keep up as many healthy lifestyle habits as possible.
Food provides calories, which provide energy and can help stop weight loss. Encourage your loved one to:
Eat more. Talk to your loved one's doctor about nutrition. Getting calories may be more important than avoiding fat for other reasons.
Eat more protein. This may help keep muscles strong. If needed, you can add protein powder to soups and other dishes.
Get enough vitamin D. This vitamin may help keep muscles working well as you get older. Talk to the doctor about having your loved one's vitamin D level checked.