Aim: To investigate the relationship between nutritional status, functional ability and frailty in older adults participating in a 12-week Transitional Aged Care Service program.
Methods: A retrospective analysis of a clinical cohort of older adults aged 65+ years after hospital discharge. At entry into the program and at completion, nutritional status was measured using the Mini Nutritional Assessment (MNA), frailty status was measured using the Groningen Frailty Indicator and functional ability was measured using the Modified Barthel Index (MBI). Demographic data were obtained from electronic medical records.
Results: Baseline data were available for 115 participants (mean age = 81.7 (SD =7.9) years; 20.9% classified as malnourished and 89.6% as frail). A positive association was found between nutritional status and frailty (r = 0.298; P = 0.001), and frailty and functional ability (r = 0.204; P = 0.029). Multiple regression analysis, accounting for the cofounders of baseline MNA, MBI, age, gender, length of hospital stay and living situation, found that nutritional status and functional ability were able to indicate the presence of frailty on admission to the program (P = 0.002, P = 0.007, respectively). In those program completers (n = 79), significant improvements were found in nutritional status, frailty and functional ability (P < 0.0005).
Conclusions: Nutrition status, frailty and functional ability are closely and positively related, and should therefore be considered simultaneously in rehabilitation for older adults. A post-hospital transitional program with a multidisciplinary approach significantly improved all three outcomes, suggesting its value in enabling frail older people to remain independent for as long as possible.