Frailty and Circadian Rhythm

Angie SzumlinskiNews

Frailty is defined as an age-related decline in multiple physiological systems. Frail older adults have increased vulnerability to stressor events, poorer quality of life, and increased risk for major adverse health outcomes. A recent study was designed to investigate the role of the circadian function as potential physiological correlates of frailty development.

We all know that circadian clocks govern pretty much everything humans do such as sleep, motor activity and adaptation to daily environmental changes. Older people have suppressed circadian rest-activity rhythms and changes in the circadian rest-activity rhythms have been linked to the future development of many chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Yikes! Who knew?

This study demonstrated that circadian rest-activity rhythms may be sensitive to changes in individual frailty components, specifically low grip strength tended to develop first. At the same time, weight loss and exhaustion (fatigue) predicted more rapid development of frailty. At the end of the day, how many times have we overlooked some of these subtle changes or attributed them to normal aging. Study after study has proven that these are not just “aging”. Engage your skilled therapy department, conduct wellness assessments, test grip strength, track accurate weights, observe residents for signs of fatigue/exhaustion. You might identify those residents at highest risk of experiencing circadian rest-activity suppression and maybe, just maybe, enhance their quality of life. Remember, every minute counts! Stay well and stay informed!