Identifying older adults with frailty approaching end-of-life: A systematic review

Posted on 15.09.2021 - 12:06

People with frailty may have specific needs for end-of-life care, but there is no consensus on how to identify these people in a timely way, or whether they will benefit from intervention.


To synthesise evidence on identification of older people with frailty approaching end-of-life, and whether associated intervention improves outcomes.


Systematic review (PROSPERO: CRD42020462624).

Data sources:

Six databases were searched, with no date restrictions, for articles reporting prognostic or intervention studies. Key inclusion criteria were adults aged 65 and over, identified as frail via an established measure. End-of-life was defined as the final 12 months. Key exclusion criteria were proxy definitions of frailty, or studies involving people with cancer, even if also frail.


Three articles met the inclusion criteria. Strongest evidence came from one study in English primary care, which showed distinct trajectories in electronic Frailty Index scores in the last 12 months of life, associated with increased risk of death. We found no studies evaluating established clinical tools (e.g. Gold Standards Framework) with existing frail populations. We found no intervention studies; the literature on advance care planning with people with frailty has relied on proxy definitions of frailty.


Clear implications for policy and practice are hindered by the lack of studies using an established approach to assessing frailty. Future end-of-life research needs to use explicit approaches to the measurement and reporting of frailty, and address the evidence gap on interventions. A focus on models of care that incorporate a palliative approach is essential.


Hall, Alex; Boulton, Elisabeth; Kunonga, Patience; Spiers, Gemma; Beyer, Fiona; Bower, Peter; et al. (2021): Identifying older adults with frailty approaching end-of-life: A systematic review. SAGE Journals. Collection.
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Palliative Medicine


Alex Hall
Elisabeth Boulton
Patience Kunonga
Gemma Spiers
Fiona Beyer
Peter Bower
Dawn Craig
Chris Todd
Barbara Hanratty
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