During the last SUNFRAIL Steering Committee meeting, we took the opportunity of interviewing two of the experts involved in the project to hear about their views on the achievements of the project and some of the ongoing activities during the last months of project implementation leading up to the SUNFRAIL Final Conference on 7 February 2018.
Mr Robbert Gobbens is Professor of health and wellbeing in the elderly at the Inholland University in Amsterdam and a Member of the SUNFRAIL Advisory Board.
Q: What is your opinion in terms of potential of innovation of the SUNFRAIL project and of the instruments designed?
The project is very interesting because it brings together people from a great variety of disciplines and from many countries to talk and to develop a model with the aim to provide good care for frail people. Every discipline and country have their own culture, and bringing those together is an important advantage of the SUNFRAIL project.
What is very interesting and important is that SUNFRAIL has a broad scope, providing an integral approach of human functioning. Usually, when talking about frailty, the focus is mostly on its physical aspects. A strong point of the SUNFRAIL project is that it looks also to psychological functioning and socioeconomic aspects, which influence the quality of life of older people. The project has a broad scope, since it has developed a conceptual model, concrete instrument for measuring multimorbidity and frailty as well as proposing concrete care pathways. All these components are important to provide better care for frail older people.
Q: What is the added value of the SUNFRAIL tool in the context of several already existing frailty indexes?
The SUNFRAIL tool combines the good elements of previous instruments. The strength of the instrument is the combination between physical components, socioeconomic components and questions about multimorbidity.
In addition, it is very simple and user-friendly. It consists of only nine questions, all of which have only 2 answer categories: yes/no. That is an important strength of the instrument.
Ms Valeria Romano works at IRES Piemonte – Institute for Economic and Social Research, a governmental research institute working in close cooperation with the Piemonte Regional Government’s and local authorities planning needs. She is coordinating Work Package 7 of the project, which is developing an Educational Toolkit and Human Resources knowledge about the use of the SUNFRAIL Tool targeted at various professionals.
Q: Can you describe the results achieved with the designed educational toolkit?
We just finished the experimental course some weeks ago. The experimental course was very successful with the participants. Surely the main result we received was the inter-professional collaboration, since the course participants included a mix of professionals to undertake group exercises. We had general practitioners, geriatricians, nurses, pharmacists, psychologists, physiotherapist, dietitians and social workers involved. The participants shared views and prepared some of the exercise results together
One of the most important positive outcomes of the experimentation was the new knowledge among the professionals about the concept of frailty we have developed in the SUNFRAIL project. We tested the participants’ idea and knowledge about frailty before and after the course. As we had anticipated, we realised that both health and social care professionals thought about frailty in quite a different way from from the concept studied and analyzed in SUNFRAIL. They were for instance not referring to prevention at all and their concept of frailty was still very much overlapping with disability and with further stages of advanced frailty. Therefore, it was very important to them to find out that there is a very important focus on prevention in what we consider to be the frailty syndrome.
Another very important point was the multidimension of frailty. Frailty is not only physical and related to diseases and to physical health, but it’s very much related to psychological health and social and economic conditions and wellbeing. These, I would say, were the main results of the course experimentation.
Q: Do you have any suggestions of how to further develop the toolkit in the future?
The toolkit is still under development, so quite a lot of elements could be added to it. We will collect the SUNFRAIL partners’ opinions about it, since it has currently only been tested in very specific Italian regional contexts. We will therefore have to ask partners from other countries whether this version is applicable to their context and if they would like to see changes to the draft toolkit.
What is very important and should never be missed is the involvement of all stakeholders from the beginning. One of our mistakes was not involving some professionals a lot from the beginning. Luckily, in the second edition of the course we could include them, and they were very happy to share their views with us.