As a funder in the aging sector, we are focused on improving the health of vulnerable older adults and ensuring that they can lead a dignified, independent, high quality life in their community. To do that, we want to understand the needs of this population and support organizations that can provide the services that meet those needs.
So to identify the factors that that have the potential to trigger frailty or functional decline in vulnerable older adults living in our communities, we partnered with the Syracuse University Aging Studies Institute to develop a new “Triggers of Decline” conceptual model.
Triggers of Decline are events that precipitate a decline in physical, cognitive, or mental health for otherwise healthy older adults living in the community. These triggers are more than the risks older adults face individually, like poor mobility, malnutrition or chronic illnesses. They can also result from challenges older adults face in the context of their families and communities, such as weak social networks and caregiver stress, within the health care system, and at the societal level, including lack of transportation and medication mismanagement. These triggers can occur suddenly or they can build over time, and they often overlap and compound one another.
In a policy brief, “Identifying Interventions to Address Triggers of Decline in Vulnerable Older Adults” published in March 2016, authors Maria T. Brown, LMSW, Ph.D., assistant research professor, Syracuse University Aging Studies Institute and Kara Williams, senior program officer, Health Foundation for Western and Central New York, introduce the Triggers of Decline model and recommend that policy makers and practitioners use the model to improve data collection about at-risk populations, as well as to guide development and measurement of strategies to address those risks and the onset of frailty.