For most individuals, almost unlimited mobility is a way of life. When this element is removed, or even significantly restricted, there are often dire consequences. Knowing the risks, and knowing how to deal with them, will make the clinical experience much better for doctors, patients, and everyone else involved in the process.
Lack of mobility is essentially a physical issue, although there are usually significant non physical components as well. Nevertheless, since limited mobility is a physical issue, there are some physical corrections available.
Immobility is especially a concern for rehabbing patients who are accustomed to high levels of physical activity and physical exercise, because these individuals have a much harder time adjusting to prolonged periods of inactivity and physical dependence. These individuals are particularly at risk for:
Depression: Injury and surgery recovery patients are very susceptible to depression. The risk is even more pronounced for participants in team sports, because they have lost not only their primary source of physical comfort, but their primary source of emotional comfort as well.
Loss of Appetite: In a nutshell, lack of stimulation leads to loss of appetite. So, it’s important to keep rehabbing patients stimulated with lots of television, books, and other media. A little thing like a good hospital food table can make a big difference. More on that in a minute.
Pressure Ulcers: These issues are especially common in nursing homes, because limited mobility patients simply cannot turn themselves over regularly as they sleep. The excess pressure causes bed sores, which can easily become infected and which quickly get worse.
Other Pressure Issues: The unnatural pressure may lead to other problems as well on the inside of the body. Pulmonary secretions build up in the chests of immobile patients, leading to conditions like pneumonia, severe pressure-related back pain, and even pulmonary congestion.
Clearly, immobility has both emotional and physical consequences. Since the emotional effects are a by-product of the physical maladies, at least to a considerable extent, it’s best to address the physical consequences directly.
Since people with limited mobility cannot explore the world around them, the assistance devices in their rooms must essentially bring the world to them, at least for a little while.
Hospital Food Table: These tables are a little like home kitchen tables. In addition to a food service area, the bed table must hold loose papers, support a laptop, and fulfil many other functions. While a table does nothing to ease bedsores and other physical issues, it does a world of good emotionally.
Lighting: Ideally, illumination should be completely controlled and range from bright as day to dark as night. For example, when staff comes in for bed check, they should be able to quickly turn up the lights and then just as quickly comfortably dim the room.
Wheelchair: It’s important that rehabbing patients don’t use wheelchairs as crutches (no pun intended) or as excuses to forego physical exercises.
Many patient rooms tend to be spartan, and for the most part, that is okay. However, each room should also have comfortable seating for visitors and caregivers, if at all possible.
Typically, limited mobility only lasts a few weeks. But without proper attention, long-term health problems can develop in these few weeks. As with many other areas of medicine, diligence and attention to detail are the two biggest keys to preventing this kind of outcome.