Researchers at the University of Waterloo will work to strengthen health care for older Canadians living with frailty with a new $2.6-million grant from the Canadian Frailty Network.

The money will fund a project that will give primary health-care providers in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta access to efficient screening tools to quickly identify patients who may be at risk for frailty. It will also give health-care providers access to an online platform to initiate referrals and co-ordinate care with other providers.

“In our current health-care system, frailty is typically identified only in the late stages,” said Paul Stolee, an applied health sciences professor at Waterloo and lead investigator on the project. “Unfortunately, this often results in poor outcomes for the patient and an increased burden on the health-care system.”

Data from the 2016 census from Statistics Canada show that seniors now outnumber children in Canada. Of nearly six million seniors in Canada, an estimated one in four are living with frailty.

“Persons living with frailty have many problems at once. This can reduce their ability to cope with stressors, which can lead to a rapid decline in health and independence,” said Stolee.

The grant will also help older patients have more say in their treatment with the development of a new app called My Care Mapp. The app will allow patients to document their care plan and preferences, track their referrals and appointments, and communicate service use and their care plan between providers and settings.

The project will involve researchers and partners from across Canada, as well as an international advisory panel. In addition to the University of Waterloo, researchers from Laval University, University of British Columbia, Dalhousie University and University of Calgary will receive funding for the project.

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