GEMtopia getting patients mobile and out of bed

A bright and colourful corridor is one of a number of engaging strategies developed to encourage mobility independence in older frail patients.

Physiotherapist Matt Rugari worked with the wider geriatrics team at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital to design the “GEMtopia” (Geriatric Evaluation and Management) corridor; complete with fairy lights and themed decorations.

“There is evidence that increasing a patient’s upright time (time spent standing and walking) in hospital settings can reduce the adverse health effects of immobility and falls,” physiotherapist Matt Rugari said.

“But that upright time in acute and geriatric hospital settings is often significantly low.”

“I was also finding that most of our patients, although assessed as independent in mobility, were still not mobilising enough on our ward and relying on physios and nurses to encourage them, when they could be self-initiating their own upright time.”

The GEMtopia corridor was designed to encourage patients to initiate mobility and feel motivated to be walking around the ward.

“The aim was to make corridor walking more engaging and conversational,” Matt explained.

“Our recent research with patients now confirms that patients feel motivated when they are able to mobilise in an engaging ward environment.”

Patient Beverley Kuehn with senior physio Matt Rugari explore the GEMtopia corridor.

Beverley’s story

Patient Beverley Kuehn was admitted to hospital after experiencing postural hypertension which caused her to fall.

She has been undergoing physio treatment to help improve mobility.

“I’m hoping to get my confidence up and strengthen my legs,” the 82-year-old from Pennington said.

“After a week in bed, I’ve lost a lot of my strength.”

After a few sessions with the physio team, she is making good progress and says the initiatives around the ward have helped.

“I’m quite happy to do laps of the ward, there are lots of walls of photographs that fascinate me.

“There are photos of pets and I’m really taken by a photo of a cat with green eyes.”

Other strategies

GEMtopia is just one of a number of strategies the team has introduced.

There’s a cognitive board with games like noughts and crosses, and photos at the back of the ward.  It’s designed to improve walking motivation and provide cognitive multi-tasking to walking.

Group exercise classes are run in the gym twice a week. There is also a Buddy Walking Program where patients are paired up to walk together and build a rapport and give them confidence. Recent research by the team confirms that patients value social opportunities.

The ward also includes coloured feature walls with engaging paintings to help patients get their bearings and initiate their own mobility without the fear of getting lost.

Matt and the team are hoping to build on these initiatives and provide more opportunities for patients to get mobile to improve their recovery and independence.