Seniors may overestimate their mobility

Seniors may overestimate their mobility

Approximately 77 percent of senior citizens accurately assessed their ability to perform tasks such as getting out of bed, walking 10 feet and returning to bed, according to study results recently published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

The study included 272 patients from emergency departments at two different hospitals, and showed that a number of seniors overestimate their mobility. The average age of participants was 75 years old.

Twelve percent of patients who said they could perform the assigned task without assistance required some assistance or were unwilling to complete the tasks, according to the study. Of those who said they could perform the task with a cane or walker, 48 percent actually required either human assistance or were unable to perform the task. Of those who said they could perform the task with human assistance, 24 percent were unable to perform the task even with someone helping them.

“Many elderly patients will likely self-report their abilities at a higher level than what they are for fear of not only losing their independence, but they may themselves be in denial of their need for assistance,” says Michael Mandrell, certified emergency nurse at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “It is important for family members, as well as health care workers, to know that many elderly patients will not self-report falling at home or frequent falling due to fear of being placed in a nursing home.”

Study authors emphasized the importance of determining whether or not a patient can safely return to their home after their visit to the emergency room and not risk falling or returning to the hospital.

Dr. Trisha Summerlin, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center, offers tips for making sure seniors can get around safely at home.

  • Reduce unnecessary furniture and clear away “clutter”
  • Remove any loose rugs
  • Install night lights and a shower seats as necessary
  • Consider assistive devices like grab bars and raised toilet seats
  • See a physical therapist about mobility aids such as canes and walkers

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  1. Thanks for writing on such an important topic. However, one other resource I would like to emphasize that promotes safety and independence for the older adult is Philips Lifeline Emergency Response Service. At the push of a button, help is available. Lifeline works by allowing the adult to wear 100% waterproof button. When help is needed, he/she pushes the button which activates the in-home communicator unit. The unit then connects to the response center. The response center will communicate with the adult and can immediately initiate help for the person.

    What’s great to know is that service is offered through the Advocate Older Adult Services program at a low monthly rate. Also, there’s no contract! Call Older Adult Services at 847-296-0737 for more information.

About the Author

Lynn Hutley
Lynn Hutley

Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.