Date Published: 28 January 2009

Identifying mobility needs of older Australians

Health News from Australia.

A new mobility test for elderly patients, developed by a Monash doctoral graduate, is being implemented in hospitals and aged-care facilities around the world.

Dr Natalie de Morton devised the simple mobility test, called the DEMMI (De Morton Mobility Index), in which patients are asked a series of questions and then undergo some basic physical tasks, to quickly identify the patient's level of mobility and in turn, treatment options.

"We wanted it to be a quick and easy test to administer, because otherwise it wouldn't be used where it may be the most valuable and that is in the acute clinical setting, when instant diagnoses can be incredibly important to determining potential treatment options for a patient. On average, it takes just under nine minutes to administer," Dr de Morton said.

The DEMMI uses a scorecard with 15 simple physical tests for assessing the mobility of elderly patients and includes questions such as: Can the patient stand for 10 seconds with one foot in front of the other, roll over in bed or walk unaided for 50 metres?

Less than one year after Dr de Morton became the first student to complete a doctorate at Monash University's new Department of Physiotherapy, many health services in Australia and overseas apply her work. Two Australian universities have added the DEMMI to their courses and European collaborators will soon translate it into Dutch and German. Health authorities in the US, Canada, Scandinavia and Europe have also expressed interest.

"Mobility, like blood tests or blood pressure readings, is a very important indicator of health status," Dr de Morton said.

"I tried to make it a very clear and simple instrument. Most of the questions have 'pass' or 'fail' responses. A few of the items have three response options, but most have two."

Until now, mobility tests have been created to test either those who are healthy and those who are ageing or suffering some sort of disability. The tests weren't interchangeable. With the DEMMI, medical staff can apply the same test to any age group and to any level of ability and health.

"I've been overwhelmed with the feedback. Clinicians like it because it's quick to do because it has minimal equipment requirements and provides important information regarding patient mobility. You only need a chair, a bed and a stopwatch to conduct the test, so it is inexpensive," Dr de Morton said.



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