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Elderly Mobility Scale for Frail Elderly Patients

Elderly Mobility Scale for Frail Elderly PatientsWhat is the elderly mobility scale?

The Elderly Mobility Scale (EMS) is a means to assess the functional ability of an elderly person, especially those who are frail, in terms of physical mobility. It is a standardized scale by which geriatric health care professionals, particularly physical therapists, can assess the physical ability of the elderly patient and monitor the outcome of the therapy. This simply means that a physical therapist can determine the ability of the patient at the start of the treatment and the effectiveness of the therapy at the end of the treatment period. The Elderly Mobility Scale is also useful to monitor progress during the course of the treatment period. It will also determine when an elderly person can function independently and safely at home.

Assessment Tools for Frail Elderly Patients

The Elderly Mobility Scale is not the only assessment tool used by physical therapists. Others include the Berg Balance Scale, Time Unsupported Steady Stand (TUSS) and Six Minute Walk Test. Some of these assessment tools also takes into consideration the ability to conduct certain daily activities such as bathing, dressing and walking. Several assessment tools are used jointly to determine the ability of an elderly patient, whether the therapy has been of significant use and if so, to what degree the patient has benefited from treatment. More research into these tools and the contribution of new technology has led to these scales being revised or modified in some instances but it still retains its basic purpose – as a means of assessing a person’s physical ability and/or level of functioning.

Scoring on the Elderly Mobility Scale

The Elderly Mobility Scale determines three key aspects of mobility – locomotion, balance and position changes – assessed through 7 dimensions :

  • Gait – whether a person can walk independently, requires a mobility aid like a walking stick or constant supervision.
  • Lying to sitting – whether a person can independently prop up from a lying to sitting position or needs the help of one or more person.
  • Sitting to lying – whether a person can lie down independently from the sitting position or needs the assistance of one or more person.
  • Timed walk – the period of time a person takes to walk a set distance.
  • Sit to stand – getting up from the sitting position either independently or with the help of one or more person.
  • Functional reach – ability to reach out forwards without falling measured in centimeters.
  • Standing – with or without support of others or mobility aids.

The scoring for each dimension of the Elderly Mobility Scale varies with points between 0 to 4 depending on the specific aspect that is being tested. The Elderly Mobility Scale goes up to a maximum of 20 points and a higher score indicates that a person can perform better. It also provides a measure of the ability of a person to function independently and safely in the home environment.

However, the Elderly Mobility Scale does not take into consideration a person’s mental state and cognitive abilities which can compromise the decision making ability. This may be particularly compromised in conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Cognitive impairment can ultimately compromise the independent functioning of a person in a safe manner despite the score of the Elderly Mobility Scale indicating suitable performance.


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