“Frailty is regarded as a knife-edge condition, like a waiter balancing an overloaded tray. As long as the tray stays balanced, it may be carried safely but if one plate falls off and the balance is upset, it is likely the plates will fall,” says Professor of Rural Pharmacy Patrick Ball from Charles Sturt University (CSU).
And it can be a small illness, even a common cold, which can cause that loss of balance and precipitate a cascade, leading to loss of independence and need for full-time care.
As Australia’s population continues to age, a new two year project led by Charles Sturt University (CSU) hopes to use a novel approach to increase awareness in rural Australia of the problems linked with the frail elderly.
Heading the project is Australia’s first Professor of Rural Pharmacy Patrick Ball, who aims to highlight the complex nature of frailty by developing a training and educational roadshow for rural and remote health workers. He will work with the University of South Australia and local specialists from various professions.
The roadshow, to be developed by Professor Ball, will highlight the need for a multi-disciplinary approach to the available treatments by health professionsals, such as pharmacists and medical specialists. It will be delivered by health specialists and academics and include training materials such as audio and video tapes and CDs, to allow those attending to take the material back to their own workplaces.
On his appointment to Charles Sturt University in 2005, Professor Ball flagged the importance of drawing together multidisciplinary teams of health professionals in rural communities to maximise the levels of service available to small and large country towns.
Funded through the Federal Government’s Rural Health Support, Education and Training (RHSET) Program, the $92 500 project entitled Frailty: a team effort is the robust approach will be initially directed to the rural areas of NSW and South Australia.
“Rural areas face particular problems in dealing with frailty due to a lack of support facilities and distances and the roadshow will emphasis how different professions can work together to bridge gaps where particular skills and services are not locally available,” said Professor Ball.
The introduction of the first non metropolitan pharmacy course at Charles Sturt University in 1997 has contributed to a resurgence of the pharmacy profession in country areas where the health professionals are in demand.