How Canadian Frailty Network makes a difference

What is frailty?

Frailty isn’t simply getting older. The risk of becoming frail increases with age, but the two are not the same. Frail people are at higher risk for negative health outcomes and death than we would expect based on their age alone. It is a state of increased vulnerability, with reduced physical reserve and loss of function across multiple body systems, thus reducing ability to cope with normal or minor stresses, which can cause rapid and dramatic changes in health.

Why frailty matters

Older Canadians living with frailty are over-represented in all parts of the healthcare system: primary care, community and residential care, acute care, and end-of-life care. Frailty is also linked to higher consumption of healthcare resources. Of the $220 billion spent on healthcare annually in Canada (11% of GDP), 45% is spent on people over 65 years old, although they are only 15% of the population. 6,7,8

Currently, we have little evidence to guide the care of our older citizens living with frailty. We don’t know if current therapies are beneficial or cause harm, are cost-effective or waste scarce healthcare resources. And, health and social care systems are ill equipped to deal with frailty.

Frailty matters in Canada, and needs be addressed in Canada: the status quo is not an option.

What is CFN’s role?

The Canadian Frailty Network (CFN) is a not-for-profit organization originally funded in 2012 by the Government of Canada’s Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program, and refunded in 2017 for a second, five-year term. By renewing Canadian Frailty Network (CFN) for a second term, the Government of Canada, through the NCE has made a powerful statement about the importance of improving care for our older Canadians living with frailty.

CFN’s mandate is to improve the care of older Canadians living with frailty, and support their families and caregivers. We do this by increasing frailty recognition and assessment, by providing evidence to inform decision making from the bedside to the policy making level, by training the next generation of care professionals and scientists, and by mobilizing knowledge to catalyze change in health and social care systems.

The next phase of CFN’s work as a Network Centre of Excellence (NCE) will have a significant impact on Canada’s ability to care for older citizens living with frailty and to support their families and caregivers. Frailty matters in Canada.