The meaning of mobility for residents and staff in long-term care facilities


E.M. Bourret, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, 3560 Bathurst Street, Toronto, Ontario M6A 2E1, Canada. E-mail:


The meaning of mobility for residents and staff in long-term care facilities

Background. Although the physical and psychological effects of decreased mobility have been documented, little is known about what it means to be mobile from the institutionalized elders' perspective. Even less is known about nurses' perceptions regarding institutionalized elders' mobility and about mobility enhancing strategies.

Aim. The purpose of this study was to generate knowledge about the phenomenon of mobility from both the nurses' and institutionalized elders' perspective.

Design. An exploratory qualitative design was used. Focus groups with residents and nursing staff were conducted in three long-term care facilities in a large metropolitan city in 1998. Ethical approval was received from the ethics committees in all three facilities prior to study implementation. Twenty long-term care facility residents and 15 nursing staff participated in the study.

Methods. A trained facilitator used an interview guide to moderate discussions in which residents' and nurses' opinions and feelings about mobility were solicited. The group responses were tape recorded, transcribed and coded. The codes reflected major concepts or abstractions of the data and emerged from the participants' verbal responses to the research questions.

Findings. Both groups identified mobility as being pivotal to the residents' quality of life and well-being. The residents viewed mobility as a means of freedom, choice and independence, and they made great efforts to maintain their mobility. The nurses also valued the importance of mobility and assisted the residents through preparatory care, environmental modifications and encouragement. Factors that related to the residents' willingness to be mobile, environmental barriers and the impact of waiting were compared between the two groups.

Conclusion. Mobility involves more than the movement from one point to another. The nature of the assistive nurse-client relationship and the resident's subjective perspective must become central to understanding the meaning of mobility for residents in a long-term care facility.