Home alone: Assessing mobility independence before discharge
Hospitalists are often confronted with discharge planning responsibility and decisions for elderly patients who live alone. The absence of an in‐home helper (spouse, partner, or care‐giver) reduces the margin of safety and resilience to any new debility. Research has documented that during hospital stays elderly patients tend to become deconditioned, even if there is no new specific neurologic or motor deficit. In the patient whose pre‐hospital mobility independence is not robust, and perhaps marginally compensated, inpatient stays for any diagnosis may result in critical decrements in mobility independence. The present study is an effort to design a bedside tool for the hospitalist by which to discern, or screen, for such debility. The tool is a hierarchical performance test we named I‐MOVE (Independent Mobility Validation Examination). It is a quick series of bedside mobility requests to demonstrate capability of fundamental movements critical to independent living. We describe manner in which I‐MOVE can be performed. Moreover, we describe the face validity and the high interrater reliability (> 0.90 intra‐class correlation coefficient) of two RNs who independently administered and scored I‐MOVE for 41 patients on a General Medical Care Unit. Although not yet studied in correlation with outcomes, nor with validated mobility assessment tools, we believe I‐MOVE can serve as a useful extension of the nurse's assessment, or the Hospitalist's physical examination. Discerning the continued capability of mobility independence is a desirable, on‐going insight for discharge planning of the elderly patient who resides alone. Journal of Hospital Medicine 2009;4:252–254. © 2009 Society of Hospital Medicine.