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Frailty and Social Care: Over- or Under-Familiar Terms?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Policy and Society
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sep 2016

King's Authors


Definitions of frailty are much debated. The focus of this article is on the representation of frailty; who employs the terms ‘frail’ or ‘frailty’ in social care, about whom and with what meanings? We report secondary analysis of interview data from two waves of a longitudinal study starting in 2008. Study participants were 240 social care managers/practitioners working in four English localities. Social care managers and practitioners did not talk at length about frailty as characterising the increasing needs of care users. The minority who talked about frailty used the term in three ways: describing a physical state not including dementia; describing a stable state, as distinct from those dying; and as a combination of physical and mental disabilities (i.e. dementia). Differences among the participants in this study about the meaning of frailty could have implications for policy makers and for communication with other staff, health professionals, older people and their relatives.

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