To walk or not to walk – that’s not really the question at South West Health. Whether you are in hospital with pneumonia, recovering from a bowel resection or waiting for a long term care bed, if you have been appropriately referred, the members of the mobility enhancement team will be showing up at your room to encourage you to go for a walk with them. It is the mission of the Mobility Enhancement Program (MEP) to improve patient mobility while reducing the effects of immobility during hospitalization.

The Mobility Enhancement Team, which includes Rehabilitation Assistants (RAs) and Continuing Care Assistants (CCAs), works collaboratively with patients, families, caregivers, and the health care team. The program is provided through Rehabilitation Services with support from the Rehabilitation Team, but can also work independently with those stable, predictable patients who have had mobility interventions identified as part of their plan of care.

Decreased mobility causes physical and mental decline in up to 50% of hospitalized older adults in a very short time frame (i.e. 48 hours). The effects of immobility may:
– Be debilitating or life-threatening to the patient
– Be costly to the health care system
– Often result in a longer hospital stay
– Cause a patient to require LTC instead of returning home
– Lead to more frequent admissions, increasing bed utilization pressures.

The physical and mental health effects of decreased mobility include weakness, falls, fractures, circulatory compromise, irregular bowel function, pressure ulcers, secondary illnesses, loss of independence, confusion, anxiety, depression, etc.

The intended purpose of this practice was to improve patient mobility while reducing the effects of immobility during hospitalization. The audits of the outcome measures confirm that intent was achieved. Audits were done of the Elderly Mobility Scores in 2011 and 2014 demonstrating that up to 96% of the patients seen by the Mobility Enhancement team maintain or increase their mobility status.  An additional benefit of the program is the change in the perception of family members and care givers. Once they see patients are able to be up and about, they support increasing levels of activity and are more apt to take patients for walks themselves

Establishing a Mobility Enhancement Program dedicated to early and ongoing mobilization of patients not only helps prevent mental and physical decline, but also has positive effects on the patients as well such as  increasing strength and endurance, decreasing risk of falls, increasing independence, while potentially resulting in a shortened length of hospital stay, etc.
The program now includes: a. Walks – inside the facility as well as outdoors b. Wheelchair mobility c. Exercise classes and maintenance programs for stable/predictable patients (e.g. patients on ALC) d. Wii activities/games for the maintenance of their present level of function (e.g. maintain balance, standing or sitting tolerance, social interaction, and attention span). e. Memory walks – with questions/quotes/conversation items at different stations along a walk route f. Walks with the purpose of improving independence (e.g. to get own drinking water/ice, snacks, etc.) and g. Providing education regarding the risks of immobility, proper footwear and fall prevention.

Contact information:

Contact Name: Peggy Green; Director Clinical Services Therapeutics
Contact Email: pgreen@swndha.nshealth.ca

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