The little miracles of physical activity in the elderly

This text is part of the special booklet Aging well, staying young

Prescribing simple and safe exercises adapted to the patient’s condition reduces the length of hospitalization and the need for rehabilitation treatment during the stay. This is what reveals a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.

As soon as we put elderly people in the hospital, they decondition themselves physically because, due to a lack of personnel or training, they find themselves lying in their beds, or sitting on a chair, ”observes Mylène Aubertin-Leheudre, professor. in the Department of Human Kinetics at the University of Quebec in Montreal and researcher at the Research Center of the University Institute of Geriatrics of Montreal.

However, unlike young people, once they leave the hospital, the elderly cannot return to the level they were at before their hospitalization when they resume exercising, she says.

By discussing with geriatricians, she and her team of researchers wanted, with this action-research project, to set up a physical activity program adapted to the patient’s condition. The prescribed exercises also had to be done simply and safely, in the patient’s room, without the need for supervision. “We wanted a solution that didn’t add tasks to the staff, other than asking the patient if they had done their exercises and motivating them to continue their efforts,” she adds.

The right program for every patient

The MATCH program (Maintenance of Autonomy Through exerCise in Hospital Setting), funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Department of Health and Social Services, was born. It works with a five-color code that goes from red to blue, with red representing the worst physical condition, blue the best. Each color is associated with a short three-times-a-day program that may include exercises such as getting up from a chair several times in a row and walking.

To avoid subjectivity, it is not the healthcare professional who assigns the color code to the patient. Rather, it is the result of three simple physical tests that measure strength, walking speed and balance. “This way, for example, we avoid falling into ageism and overprotecting a patient, or even asking too much of someone who is very weak,” explains Mylène Aubertin-Leheudre.

Once the patient has received his prescription for the exercise program, the physiotherapist or kinesiologist at the hospital will show it to him and then do it on his own.

The study of 26 elderly people hospitalized at the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal showed that those who completed the MATCH program reduced their stay by two days on average and needed less rehabilitation treatment during their stay. stay. “It’s a huge difference,” says the researcher. With MATCH, hospital costs could be reduced by about $ 3,700 per patient. “

Extend studies

To verify whether these results can be achieved across the province, new studies are being set up in various hospitals in the metropolitan region and in Saguenay. “We want to make sure that MATCH works in regions that have very different populations, but also, where care is organized differently,” says the researcher. If our results are validated by these different studies, our program could be implemented everywhere in Quebec. “

Other countries are showing interest in this approach. France has already tested the implementation of MATCH in a COVID unit and as the experiment was a success, the program is now part of a guide created by the European Geriatric Medicine Society to prevent the fallout from the virus and its restrictions. “We are continuing to set up MATCH in different regions of France and we have been contacted by Belgium,” says the researcher. To remotely train people who want to implement the program, we have created a site in French and in English. “

With the aging of the population, this interest in maintaining the autonomy of the elderly as much as possible is not likely to wane. “Having elderly people in hospital is expensive and by keeping them still, we create disabilities that will have a long-term impact on their quality of life,” says Mylène Aubertin-Leheudre. Getting them moving through our program requires few resources in hospitals and greatly improves their health. Everybody wins. ”

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