We have all experienced the shame and shock that this pandemic has brought to the most susceptible and vulnerable citizens of our society. Largely forgotten, ignored and provided with a standard of health care which could be accurtately described as biased and wholehardedly inadequate.
If we can extrapolate this tendancy of biased health care into our elderly population, a disturbing trend has emerged. This trend is certainly NOT, by any means new! This tend is extrememly evident when the discussion is directed to frailty syndrome.
Frailty syndrome is a common medical/physiological syndrome that occurs in people over the age of 60 and although this syndrome is not caused by aging, it is closely associated with the process of aging. People who are over the age of 40 are not capable of making the same amounts of lean tissue mass (muscle/bone) as younger folks. This physiological trend can be accellerated by catabolic events like surgery, trauma, infections, chronic stress, inactivity, chronic disease and poor physical health. These events can actually increase the likelihood that any given person can enter into the physiological state which sets the stage for frailty syndrome to flourish.
Frailty syndrome is characterized by loss of weight (especially lean tissue mass), apathy, loss of appetite, decreased ability to taste and smell, inactivity, loss of energy, poor ambulation, mental confusuion, muscle cramping, heart rhythm irregularities and an increased susceptability to infections (upper respiratory, urinary tract). This syndrome can be very gradual or rapid, largely dependent upon many factors. If you wish to see this syndrome, go to a long-term care facility, nursing home or retirement community. This sundrome is VERY common in these environments.
Why do you think that these facilities were and are being associated with the highest percentages of death reported from covid-19?
Herein lies the problem with this syndrome. It is not being diagnosed and treated as a disease because it is NOT being considered as such. The prevailing myth is that this syndrome is simply a consequence of the aging process itself and does not need to be treated…or even recognized. This rather unfortunate and misguided view has caused countless lives to end prematurely over many decades in western countries. I say western countries because, this syndrome is routinely treated, managed and completely corrected in many other countries where health care is not as exculsionary.
How is frailty syndrome managed and corrected and rather easily?
This is a two-step process.
One: Partial and/or Complete Parenteral Nutrition (IV concentrated nutrient supplentation)
Two: Rehabilitation Therapy.
This treatment is easy to provide, cost-effective and completely reverses this syndrome in almost every case, even in terninally-ill patients. The key point in this case is to institute treatment in the early stages of this syndrome. The research on treating this syndrome and the sarcopenia (muscle and bone loss/immune compromise) associated with frailty syndrome is VERY convincing. However, the leadership and will to treat it is not very convincing…sadly, it’s quite a shameful set of circumstances.
I know the all the commonly used detractors, he/she is just getting old, it’s just normal aging, they just won’t eat, they won’t get-up, they just want to sleep all day, they can’t walk anymore, they have lost so much weight, they seem to drift-off all of the time. Have any of you folks every heard these statements made by others regarding your loved-ones? Especially those who are responsible for them?
This is text book frailty syndrome, treatable and preventable.
I experienced this first-hand with my father Glenn. He deleloped frailty syndrome over the course of a 6-12 month period and never recovered. This was the case because he simply did not (at any time), receive the care and attention he very greatly deserved from the people who were responsible for his health and well-being.
He died in a hospice May 18/2020. His cause of death, cardiac arrest attributed to chronic starvation. How do I know? I was there. My interpretation is my father died from a simple case of neglect caused by ignorance. The sad fact is that this situation was never acknowledged by anyone who were his care-givers.
Blame…there is a great deal to spread around in this case. However when you have an elderly parent whose affairs are not under your direct control, this can easily happen. But….I could have done much more.
Fraily Syndrome is very common in our aging community and can be very easily and safely treated and reversed.There are preventative measures which can be utilized in folks over the age of 40 to prevent this syndrome in almost every case.
In my next article, I will discuss these with you in detail.
Kevin J. McLaughlin