Higher risk of dementia among frail older adults – Alzheimer’s Society comments

The risk of developing dementia is around 3.5 times higher in frail older adults than in non-frail peers, according to a new study published in Scientific Reports.

The study found frailty affects around 17% of older adults in England, and that those who were frail at the start of the study had a greatly increased risk of developing dementia over the next ten years.

The findings also revealed that adults on the verge of becoming frail already had almost twice the risk of developing dementia. Frailty is a complex but common condition of older age, which is defined by a combination of problems with mobility, physical disability, poor general health, eyesight, and hearing, as well as chronic problems like cardiovascular diseases and depression. NHS England defines frailty as ‘a loss of resilience that means people living with frailty do not bounce back quickly after a physical or mental illness’.

Dominic Carter, Senior Policy Officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said:

'Frailty is a complex measure of overall health that, just like dementia, is closely linked to increasing age. Given what we know about the link between other health conditions, lifestyle and dementia risk, it is not surprising to see that frail people are more likely to develop dementia.'

'Health services should be helping to reduce the impact of frailty, and frailty itself, by ensuring that people are properly supported, particularly after an accident or hospital stay. But, with incessant cuts to social care budgets and growing pressures on the health service, older people are not getting the help they need, increasing the risk and impact of frailty.'

'We’ve heard through our helpline from people denied rehabilitation services purely because of their dementia diagnosis. These services are crucial if we’re to prevent people with dementia falling into a vicious cycle of becoming frail, falling, and then spending time in hospital, only to become more frail.'

'The health and care system simply has to be better equipped and funded to support the 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia. In next week’s budget we need a commitment from the Chancellor for an immediate funding boost for health and social care.'

Read the full paper in Scientific Reports.