Assisted walking programme for hospitalised older people

A way to improve walking ability compared to usual geriatric care?

Caring for older people requires a multidisciplinary approach, which is not only based on the treatment of an identified illness, but also on a more global point of view dealing with the various dimensions of each individual.

It is well-known that mobility and movement are key elements to remain independent, including in the hospital where it may be easy to remain in bed and progressively lose the ability to walk.

Physiotherapists have an important role to play in this context. Therefore, this study assessed whether an individualised assisted walking programme (IAWP) for hospitalised older people improves their ability to walk compared to a standard geriatric rehabilitation approach.

The present study showed that an IAWP for hospitalised older people improved their walking ability.

The authors concluded that moving while being hospitalised has positive effects and an individualised approach gives significant benefits compared to usual standard care.

> From: Gazineo et al., J Am Geriatr Soc 69 (2021) 637-643 . All rights reserved to The American Geriatrics Society. Click here for the online summary.

Expert opinion

This RCT is in line with earlier studies highlighting the positive effects of early mobilisation and movement for hospitalised people. It also confirms that individualised interventions are beneficial to patients.

The intervention group was supervised by a trained nurse who is experienced in geriatric care. This is due to the fact that according to the Italian national health system, no physio- or occupational therapists are assigned to geriatric units. This is however not necessarily the case in every country.

Whether IAWP intervention is provided by nurses or physiotherapists does not really matter here: the positive effects may be obtained with the assistance of (trained) health professionals caring for hospitalised patients in geriatric units as the whole staff may positively affect movement and walking. Of course physiotherapists, when operating in such units, have a key role to play in these types of intervention improving walking ability.

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