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Have you heard of life-space mobility? Life space is the measurement of where a person goes, the frequency of getting there and how a person gets there, with or without help. The medical profession uses it to measure an individuals improvement or decline in their functional mobility post hospitalization. It has been found that older individuals are more susceptible to a decline in their life space mobility if they do not get up and move when they are hospitalized.

In a study that was performed by Dr. Cynthia Brown, director of geriatric medicine at the University of Alabama, found that “individuals over the age of 70 that are hospitalized spend only 43 minutes standing or walking, compared to a healthy elder who spends 6 hours on their feet.”

Immobility leads to many problems for the elderly. The most apparent is weakness with deconditioned muscle tone. This leads to a decline in the normal “activities of daily living”, such as dressing, bathing, meals, etc. for the elderly. Older individuals have less physiological reserve to “bounce back” after a medical illness or hospitalization. This is why it is so important for families to be involved and get their loved one moving as soon as possible. Get them out of bed and make them walk. If they are at home recuperating make them get up every hour to walk around the house. If the weather is nice take them for short walks outside. Though you may want to do tasks for your loved one so they can “get their rest” don’t do too much. Too much of a good thing can be a “bad thing for our elders.”

Life-Space Mobility by Gerry Fioriglio RN, BS 1

So remember a hospitalization or medical illness causes a decrease in “life-space” for older adults. We can minimize this decline by encouraging loved ones to get up and move. Sometimes the use of professional help such as physical therapy or a home health aide is necessary to set up and perform an exercise program which will increase mobility and strength for your loved one. For more information about improving the “activities of daily living” and improving life-space mobility for a loved one contact Family Caregivers Network at 866-539-7515. Family Caregivers Network is licensed by the PA Department of Health and provides families with in-home care assistance.