People are now living longer than ever before, something we should celebrate. But it also means that more people are living with frailty as they grow older, and some are dying without ever receiving a diagnosis associated with terminal care. Frailty is often described as something that increases your vulnerability to health stressors. This means people living with frailty are less likely than those without frailty to make a full recovery from what would otherwise be relatively minor health complaints. Frailty also increases the likelihood of death. This has, understandably, led to suggestions that people living (or dying) with frailty should receive palliative care.

Age should never be a barrier to good care, but beyond the increased likelihood of death it isn’t clear what needs people living with frailty have that palliative care could address. What symptoms do people living with frailty have? What are their psychosocial needs? Do they have needs that palliative care could help with, and are current palliative services configured to address those needs?

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This article is an excerpt by Daniel Stow, PhD Student, Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, explaining the background to his longer article in the April issue of ‘Palliative Medicine’.