Helen Bristow

Contributing to these online educational resources on better understanding frailty has been a privilege. My input has been informed my lived experiences as a citizen, supporting family and friends living with frailty, as they transitioned across the scale from being fit, well and independent to becoming very severely frail and terminally ill, some with dementia. 

My strongest reflections are that each scenario was significantly improved once frailty was recognised and skilfully explained to us. Improving our understanding of what changes were occurring, why and what might be ahead was empowering - enabling us to better forward plan in many ways, for example, to better understand local service and equipment providers and to make more informed decisions about advance planning, progressing to end of life care. And, in acute crises, access to Frailty Assessment Unit services has been an excellent development to improve and expedite patients’ ED visits and onward care.

Much of this material was not readily available and required tenacious exploration so you being able to provide people with appropriate, accessible information as an outcome of studying these resources will be invaluable. Please remember that small practical facts, like explaining the differences in booking hospital appointment transport services for own wheelchair or hoist users is really useful. And, while our better understanding of frailty did not lessen the challenges, it did liberate us to focus on living in the present and to make more informed decisions about the risks and benefits of daily activities that would improve quality of life and bring precious moments of joy, for example, regarding food preferences, nutrition and swallow risks or supporting safe standing to relish a view.

My other credentials for engaging in this work are my public and patient involvement group (PPIG) experience, both as a patient participation group (PPG) member and as a PPIG member of a range of primary, secondary and social care working and focus groups. Also, I have advocated for quality online learning for thirty years, when I completed a master’s programme that was one of two nationally funded projects that evidenced how computer conferencing could successfully be applied to education. Nowadays, we have access to an extraordinary range of mass open online courses and in the pandemic all education has an online element. e-LfH programmes are innovating learning in health and social care, offering you 24/7 access to quality-assured resources to augment your traditional academic and practice-based learning. I hope you enjoy learning more about frailty so that you can better educate patients and their carers to improve their health, well-being and the quality of their lives.