Functional mobility is the capacity to move from one position to another, enabling participation in normal daily routines and activities. It includes bed mobility, transfers, walking, wheelchair mobility, accessing toilets, getting in and out of a car, driving and taking public transport. It is important to be aware that mobility restrictions and using gait aids can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to access their home and local area. This can result in difficulty maintaining and initiating social connections within their community.

In hospital, functional mobility refers to your patient’s ability to get in and out of bed, to walk to and from the toilet and around the ward.

Self-care is the personal care carried out by a person. Common self-care activities while in hospital include eating, bathing, personal grooming and using the toilet. An older person may require assistance, supervision or guidance from healthcare workers for these tasks.

In hospital, mobility and self-care are often key measures we use to predict length of stay, discharge destination and need for support services. It is important that we understand our patients’ prior levels of ability and how they move and care for themselves in their usual living environments.

Wherever possible, we should ensure that our patients’ mobility and capacity for self-care is maintained or improved while they are in hospital. This will increase the likelihood that they can return to their previous levels of function, independence and social activities after leaving hospital.