Medical Alerts for Seniors with Frailty or Failure to Thrive (FTT) Syndrome

Medical Alerts for Seniors with Frailty or Failure to Thrive (FTT) Syndrome

time icon 6 min read update icon Sept. 28, 2019


Growing weaker as we age is seen by many as just another sign that we are heading into our golden years. For years, frailty, or failure to thrive (FTT) syndrome was customarily associated with terminal illnesses like cancer. This is no longer the case, however, as frailty is now the number one leading cause for concern for those in hospice care. Fortunately, FTT syndrome is manageable when treated as a stand-alone illness under the proper supervision of a medical professional.

Frailty Overview

While increasing weakness is certainly one aspect of aging, frailty as a syndrome has increased in prevalence, with nearly 30percent of all persons over the age of 90 being slowed by a decline in their functional status. What’s more, frailty can strike as early as 65 years of age and can lead to a significant reduction in one’s quality of life.

FTT and frailty are marked by an older adult’s limited ability to successfully navigate life’s stressors, maintain a healthy weight and avoid exhaustion. In other words, frail older folks may lose their appetite, lose weight unexpectedly, experience bouts of fatigue and see rapid declines in their mental and physical capabilities.

For these reasons, FTT and frailty may not stand out as an actual syndrome and could be misdiagnosed alongside other comorbidities like anemia, depression, delirium or dementia. Thus, it is important to note whether the older person is mentally, physically or physiologically stressed or increasingly unable to make decisions or deal with life’s hardships when compared to similar adult populations.

Frailty Impairment

Frailty and a FTT are syndromes unto themselves and need to be treated as such. Despite the variegated nature of symptoms, those impacted by an increased vulnerability to life’s changes may grow suddenly weak and increasingly fatigued as well as present with weak grip strength and a slow gait. Weight loss is also extremely common; a person may unintentionally lose over ten pounds in one year, or over five-percent of their body mass in a given timespan.

All of these factors can culminate in a downward spiral of health wherein a senior is more likely to take a fall or spill and land in the hospital with a fracture or concussion. When these things happen, the senior is increasingly exposed to still more stress, isolation and a sense of hopelessness.

If the older adult is unable to make a full recovery or to boost their weight through an increase in muscle mass, then they may be referred to palliative care where the average length of stay for those with a FTT condition is less than 90 days. Immobility could result in still more trips to the emergency room and a worsening in one’s quality of life.

Older folks that are growing increasingly frail may experience any number of the following symptoms, conditions and impairments:

  • Increased risk of falls or spills resulting in hospitalization
  • Exhaustion
  • Inability to overcome life changes or daily stressors
  • Decreased mobility
  • Institutionalization
  • Decreased grip strength
  • Feeling less than energetic
Medical Alert Benefits

Frailty and FTT syndrome are best monitored and managed with a medical alert device or personal emergency response button that immediately alerts first responders to a fall. A slowed gait, general weakness, poor coordination and exhaustion can all result in an anticipated fall or bump to the head.

That said, there are multiple devices on the market that sense a fall and immediately alert family, friends or medical professionals of a potential accident. This means a senior or older person can get in and out of emergency care faster with a decreased likelihood of falling further ill while in recovery.

FTT syndrome symptoms:

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Falls
  • Slow gait
  • Poor grip strength
  • Exhaustion
  • Depression
  • Failure to cope
  • Loss of resilience
Safety Without Medical Alerts

If you choose to manage frailty or FTT without the use of medical alerts, there are still options to monitor, manage and even boost quality of life.

  • Exercise: Get outside and focus on becoming consistently more active. Lifting appropriately sized weights or going for a walk has been shown to not only counter exhaustion and other signs of FTT syndrome, but to stave off the risk of muscle mass loss and prevent spills.
  • Home checks:  Those with the signs and symptoms of frailty are encouraged to have their homes evaluated for fall risk factors. Simply moving a rug or changing the direction of a door could prevent a trip to the ER.
Frailty Precautions
  • Eat regularly: Eating well and at regular times can help one feel less weak and create a virtuous cycle wherein the older adult feels more inclined to exercise. This in turn can help boost muscle mass and weight.
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise: Getting out and about is not only good physically, but also emotionally, spiritually and mentally. Just lifting weights or going on a walk can have an even longer lasting effect of building one’s confidence and therefore, resilience to life’s little changes.
  • Monitor medications: Seniors that experience FTT syndrome are encouraged to watch for any negative sideeffects in their medication regime that could cause depression or result in lethargy. If you experience these, call your physician immediately.
Frailty Medical Alerts Conclusion

Frailty is one of the leading causes of institutionalization and hospitalization, as it more frequently than not results in falls, spills and injuries. While growing weaker and more exhausted might seem natural over one’s lifetime, there are times where the rapidity and onset of such feelings are too overwhelming for the body and mind to cope with.

That said, the use of medical device technology can be of use in alerting first responders to a spill. Exercise trackers are now even capable of monitoring for unexpected movements and can double as motivation to increase one’s exercise routine, which is just one way to more easily boost strength, confidence and quality of life. This hybrid option is a great one, and just might be what it takes to start feeling stronger and more capable.

Kate Papenberg - Senior Advisor

Kate is senior researcher with Grandfolk® providing in-depth product and service reviews to empower senior buying decisions.