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Elderly Mobility Scale: What Is It and How Is It Used?

For most older adults, there comes a time when it’s no longer safe to live alone. How do you know when that time has come? It’s a tough question, which is why researchers developed the elderly mobility scale. Though the test has limitations, it can help you make more objective determinations.

What is the Elderly Mobility Scale?

True to its name, the elderly mobility scale (EMS) is a diagnostic tool used to help assess the mobility of seniors. More specifically, it helps to measure an elderly person’s abilities to take on daily tasks, and then provides a score. Sometimes it’s called the modified elderly mobility scale (MEMS) because it’s been amended several times to help improve the accuracy of the test.In either case, the scale is a scientifically validated assessment tool with more than two decades of research surrounding it. Clinicians have used it to help predict the risk of suffering a fall, or help measure the outcomes of interventions to improve mobility. In other words, it can help tell you when your loved ones are at greater risk of an injury, and to an extent, when their efforts to improve their health are paying off.

Taking the Elderly Mobility Scale

It only takes about 15-minutes to complete the elderly mobility scale. To complete the test, you’ll need a bed, chair, yardstick, and stopwatch. You’ll need any walking aids the person usually uses, and enough space for a 20-foot walk. You’ll also need your own copy of the elderly mobility scale form.Taking the test is fairly simple because it only requires practicing basic motions. For instance, the test requires you to measure walking speed, functional reach, and how much assistance is needed for moving between the seated and standing position. Then a score is assigned for each question. For example, seniors who can stand without assistance may earn three points. If more assistance is necessary, fewer points are awarded. When every question is complete, a total of 20 points is possible.

Interpreting the Elderly Mobility Scale Score

Scoring between 14 and 20 indicates an ability to safely and independently maneuver through the world. Though some help may be necessary, someone in this EMS score range is generally considered to have enough mobility to be safe at home.A score between 10 and 13 indicates a borderline status where seniors require some help with daily activities due to mobility limitations. Additional monitoring over time may be necessary to identify further declines.A score below ten indicates a high level of dependence, where activities like getting dressed and using the bathroom are not possible without assistance. Older adults with scores in this range typically require some form of care.

Limitations of the Elderly Mobility Scale

The elderly mobility scale is a limited assessment tool. It can be ineffective for people who have poor confidence, it doesn’t involve any cognitive screening, and it doesn’t let you measure improvements in mobility past 20-points. With those limitations in mind, having the EMS at your disposal is a great way to ensure your loved ones receive all the care they need. It’s tough to know when worsening mobility will become dangerous, and it can be difficult to convince loved ones they need more support. In the right hands, the elderly mobility scale can help.