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  1. Erlen, Judith A. PhD, RN, FAAN


Nurses caring for patients with orthopaedic problems often encounter elderly patients in their caseload. These patients have variable levels of functioning; some may be frail and, therefore, require greater assistance and possibly more time with their care. This loss of function and need for more assistance increases their vulnerability and creates challenges for nurses and other healthcare providers who are delivering patient care. This article offers a brief description of the frail elderly and examines their increasing vulnerability and their need for additional protection, preserving their dignity and respecting their autonomy, and how caring helps to guide nurses in addressing the special needs of this particularly vulnerable patient population. Sensitivity, patience, trust, compassion, and clinical competence matter when caring for the frail elderly.