AGE members test innovative solutions to prevent frailty in old age
As part of AGE’s General Assembly, a user forum on the topic of user involvement in frailty prevention was organised on 8 June 2018. 23 AGE members and externals attended the session. The objectives of this session was to present the IT system developed by the EU-funded project FrailSafe, in which AGE is a partner, and collect feedback from AGE members on the different devices and applications developed as part of the project.
What is frailty?
The workshop started with explaining what frailty is, namely a state of physical vulnerability with broader physiological, cognitive and locomotive impacts, which can seriously affect the daily life. It is not a disease but a condition leading to a decline of our physiological reserve, which makes you more vulnerable to stressors. Despite medical progress, the prevalence of frailty is expected to increase significantly as life expectancy is rising.
The key role of data collection and patient involvement
Dr Yiannis Ellul, a neurologist and part of the medical team of FrailSafe, explained how appropriate and timely medical intervention is crucial to prevent a person from turning from a non-frail to frail condition. To detect this key moment in time, accurate patient data are needed. This is where Dr Ellul sees an important added value of the FrailSafe project in enabling to collect more comprehensive patient data than with traditional approaches. Those data are collected by means of a number of devices, which were tested by the workshop participants:
- a smart vest worn by the person to monitor his/her heart and breathing rate and detect movement (including falls),
- game applications to monitor and improve cognitive and physical conditions.
The information collected is sent to the cloud (in a secure data center on the internet) in an anonymous (coded) way and monitored with the help of a dashboard. The system analyses the clinical status and, when necessary, sends alerts and proposals for interventions to the medical staff. Recommendations are also provided to the older person and his/her family.
Some further added values of the FrailSafe system highlighted during the working included facilitating personalized treatment and the patient’s participation in managing his/her health conditions. It can also support the provision of care in remote areas.
The whole FrailSafe system was greatly discussed and tested by the user forum participants. However some concerns were expressed with regard to the cost of this type of care (devices, analysis of data and follow-up) when used at a large scale, and who would bear those costs. Some of them were also concerned about the lack of direct human contact and interactions. And finally, they suggested more improvement on the design of the smart garment to make it more accessible, such as the zipper that remains too small.
The President of AGE Platform Europe, Ebbe Johansen, reported back on the user forum to the plenary session of AGE General Assembly, where more than a 100 AGE member associations were present (watch a short video here). He explained the benefit of early detection of frailty and how the FrailSafe system can help calculate one's physiological reserve and adopt a more proactive approach towards one’s health.