When a person is hospitalized and required to spend protracted periods in bed, it can have serious consequences on his/her health and well-being. Lying immobile increases the risk of blood clots forming in the lungs, and of skin complications such as pressure ulcers.
Loss of muscle mass and strength are other complications commonly associated with long-term hospitalization, and these issues can actually affect both the length of hospitalization and the patient’s ability to function after discharge.
For hospitalized patients, long periods of immobility increase the risk of:
- Respiratory complications such as pneumonia, atelectasis and pulmonary embolism
- Tissue damage and pressure ulcers
- Blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis)
- Reduced muscle mass and -strength
- Reduced physical fitness
- Diminished balance, especially among elderly patients
It is therefore extremely important to mobilize patients as early as possible – ideally during the period of hospitalization.
Early mobilization will enable patients to commence rehabilitation sooner, which will improve convalescence after an operation by boosting blood circulation and reducing the risk of infection and other complications.
Early mobilization and rehabilitation are defined as positioning/repositioning exercises and physical activity, and spending more time out of bed – walking around or simply standing up.
Other activities include daily routines such as combing hair, washing face and hands with a wet flannel, exercises in and/or next to the bed, balance training and walking around the bed.
Challenges linked to early mobilization include risks such as falls, a major need for physical assistance, and risk of injury to care staff and therapists.
Common lifting and moving tasks:
- Helping patients into a sitting position in order to test their reactions, reflexes, protective responses
- Supporting the sitting position
- Moving patients between bed, chair, examination couch, etc.
- Lifting the upper body for positioning supports, pillows and the like
- Lifting the hips when making the bed under the patient
- Lifting extremities
- Toilet visits (using a toilet chair, if necessary)
- Transition from one position to another
- Moving patients from sitting to standing position, and vice versa
- Standing balance/sitting balance
- Reactions, reflexes, protective response in upright position
- Shifting weight
- Gait training
- Exercises in the bed