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Elderly Mobility Scale (EMS): 7 Factors that Help Determine Your Loved One's Risk of Falling

by Frank Herold
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Elderly Mobility ScaleDid you know that falls are the leading cause of visits to the emergency room in the United States? In fact, falls are most common in children under the age of 5 and adults 65 years old or older. 

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Falls happen to all of us, most commonly due to clumsiness. A single fall does not necessarily mean that something is wrong or that major injury is inevitable. However, when falls become recurrent, they can harm individuals and increase the frequency of falls in the future. If this is the case, then a thorough evaluation to ensure safety and security needs to be performed by a physician.



There are multiple risk factors when it comes to falls and it is important to identify what they are:

1. Cognitive impairment
2. Use of medication
3. Increasing age
4. Sensory deficits

As we get older, falling becomes more of a concern as the risk of considerable injury increases. The medical world has recognized this and have actively created a scale with the primary function of assessing the functional ability of an elderly individual.


What Is The Elderly Mobility Scale?

Also referred to as the EMS, the Elderly Mobility Scale is a standardized scale used by healthcare professionals to accurately assess the physical ability of seniors. The EMS concludes 3 aspects of ability; locomotion, balance, and position changes. These 3 keys are thoroughly assessed through 7 different dimensions. This scale grants health care professionals, most commonly physical therapists, a look at 3 phases of the individual; their ability at the beginning of the treatment, the success of the treatment at the end of the session, as well as constant monitoring during. While there are a variety of other assessments available, the EMS has been tried and proven to provide accurate results and establish a way of life that is comfortable for both the individual and their caregiver(s).


What Are The 7 Factors?

Locomotion, balance, and position changes are the 3 keys assessed with the EMS. Here are the 7 dimensions used to conduct a thorough investigation:


1. Gait

Gait is the manner or style of walking and is most commonly analyzed by instructing the individual to walk in a straight line. From this the health care professional is able to see whether the person can walk independently and if not, do they require a mobility aid such as a walking stick or even further?


2. Lying To Sitting Position

For this portion, the person is required to lie down and then move themselves up into a sitting position. Are they able to do it alone or do they require the help of one or more people?


3. Sitting Position To Lying Down

Now the reversed is assessed. Are they able to take themselves from their upright sitting position to a comfortable lying position without any assistance?


4. Timed Walk

What is the time period that it takes for the individual to walk a specific distance?


5. Sitting Position To Standing

Now the individual is required to move from a sitting position to an upright standing position. Can they do this independently or do they need help?


6. Functional Reach

This is a test where the person's ability to reach forward without stumbling, and possibly falling, is determined with a numerical measurement.


7. Standing Upright

Lastly, the individual's ability to stand is tested. Are they able to successfully do so alone or do they require assistance from either another person or that of a mobility aid?

After reviewing the above 7 factors, it is evident that the EMS is an important evaluation for a loved one to undergo if they are experiencing recurrent falling episodes. Determining whatever the underlying cause is, as well as preventing future falls, can help loved ones return to the routines they love as quickly and as comfortably as possible.

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