Inhibiting patient mobility does little to prevent falls, studies find

Brian Zimmerman - Print  | 

While hospital policies to restrict elderly patients' mobility are meant to curb rates of patient falls, these protocols do little to prevent such adverse events and can often result in complications, according to a viewpoint article published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

In the article, physicians Sharon Inouye, MD, director of the Aging Brain Center at the Institute for Aging Research, Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston; Matthew Growdon, MD, of Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital; and Ron Shorr, MD, of the University of Florida in Gainesville, argue making elderly patients immobile is doing more harm than good.

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The article cites several studies demonstrating the potential adverse effects of limiting the movement of elderly patients.

"Although falls with injury should, of course, be avoided in the hospital, current fall prevention efforts reflect a troubling underlying assumption that keeping patients from moving can stop such falls," wrote the authors. "Since 2007, there has been a national epidemic of immobility among hospitalized older adults. According to a 2009 estimate, hospital patients spend more than 95 percent of their time in bed. In-hospital immobility is one of several factors theorized to give rise to the 'posthospital syndrome,' a transient state of heightened vulnerability following hospitalization that is associated with an increased risk of functional decline, medical adverse events, and hospital readmission."

To read the entire viewpoint article, click here.

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