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Fraser Health’s Dr. Grace Park and Annette Garm have created an Electronic Frailty Index Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment and a four-step method of preventing frailty.

As a family physician as well as Fraser Health’s Regional Medical Director for Home Health, Dr. Grace Park has seen too many seniors after it’s too late to prevent frailty, leaving them vulnerable to falls and poor health outcomes. Without support and resources, many seniors struggle to maintain their health and independence at home. “I have heard from my own patients, from my family and friends, and I know for myself, that we want to stay in our own homes as long as possible.”

Spearheaded by Dr. Park and project leader Annette Garm, CARES – Community Actions and Resources Empowering Seniors – aims to help seniors do just that. CARES uses a comprehensive geriatric assessment to identify seniors who are most at risk of frailty. Once a senior is aware of their risk, they are partnered with a free telephone health coach from Self-Management B.C. who help them develop healthy behaviours and access the resources they need to stay well and independent.

“It’s a perfect partnership for frailty prevention and healthy aging,” says Garm, who holds masters degrees in nursing and liberal arts as well as advanced certification in gerontology and research. “There’s growing evidence that frailty in seniors is not inevitable and CARES aligns with this new research.”

The duo will present on the CARES model and the new Electronic Frailty Index Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment (eFI-CGA) tool at the upcoming International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics world congress in San Francisco, one of a number of national and international opportunities they’ve had to spread the word about the value of early frailty assessment and intervention with health coaching.

The eFI-CGA tool, developed by Grace and Annette, is based on the work of renowned geriatric experts Dr. Ken Rockwood and Dr. Xiaowei Song. It replaces the paper based assessment form and is able to calculate a frailty index, a sensitive and predictive measurement of frailty, never before made available to care providers in their office setting.

By assessing a patient before and after participation in the CARES project, a doctor or a nurse practitioner can measure any improvement in the frailty index and encourage the patient to develop a self-care plan. While the CARES project continues to roll out across Fraser Health, the eFI-CGA tool is now available to any care provider using the Intrahealth Profile electronic medical record system.

“It means we can help intervene in the general progression of aging as we have known it,” said Dr. Park. “We don’t have to wait for the patient to have some kind of critical incident that lands them in the hospital before we can help them. By then it’s often too late and really difficult to get them back to the quality of life they want. With the new CARES model we can start early, avoid costly hospital admissions and give seniors a real chance to age well.”

For more information on CARES, see the professional resource or listen to Dr. Grace Park on Conversations That Matter.

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