Vol. 37 No. 5, September/October 2000
Pages 633 - 638

Abstract - Bed mobility task performance in older adults

Neil B. Alexander, MD; Julie C. Grunawalt, RN, MS; Scott Carlos MD; Joshua Augustine, MD

Division of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109; Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Ann Arbor, MI 41805


Abstract — Difficulty in transferring, the ability to rise in and out of a bed and chair, is a common problem in older adults, particularly those residing in skilled nursing facilities. Focusing on one aspect of transferring, rising from supine to sitting position, we devised a set of bed mobility tasks to test key arm, leg, and trunk movements that likely contribute to successful rising from bed. Healthy young controls (YC, n=22, mean age 23), and older adults (aged 60 and over) either residing independently in congregate housing (CH, n=29, mean age 84) or undergoing rehabilitation in a skilled nursing facility (SNF, mean age 77) were assessed in the time to rise from supine to sitting and in the ability or inability to perform 16 other bed mobility tasks. Trunk function-related tasks, specifically those requiring trunk elevation and trunk balance, were most difficult for the SNF, followed by CH, and then YC. Tasks focusing on trunk flexion strength (sit up arms crossed, bilateral heel raise) and lateral trunk strength/balance were the most difficult for both SNF and CH, although there was minimal difference in the percent unable to complete each task. The major CH-SNF differences occurred in trunk elevation tasks where the upper limb was important in facilitating trunk elevation (sit up with head of bed elevation with use of arms, sit up with the use of a trapeze, or sit up with use of arms from a flat bed position). These findings suggest that to improve frail older adult performance on bed mobility tasks, and specifically in rising from supine to sitting, training should move beyond improving trunk function (i.e., trunk strength). There should be an additional focus, either through therapy or bed design modifications, on how upper limb movements and positioning can be used to assist in trunk elevation.

Key words: activities of daily living, aging, disability.