A hospital trust keen to raise awareness among staff of the importance of keeping elderly patients mobile has, quite literally, set them a stiff challenge.
Cambridge University Hospitals has bought two ‘age simulation suits’, which give wearers the opportunity to experience what it is like being elderly.
The German-made suits, which will be used by staff as part of their awareness training, recreate conditions such as joint stiffness and loss of strength, grip, coordination, hearing and sight.
The initiative comes as the Trust prepares to roll out its #EndPJParalysis campaign, which is being backed by hospitals across the world.
It encourages patients to try, where possible, to get out of bed and into their clothes before midday to increase the chances of retaining mobility, independence, and experiencing a briefer hospital stay. It also means they will be safer, and less susceptible to falls, once back home.
New posters highlight the line from Jermaine Stewart’s 1986 smash hit ‘You Don’t Have to Take Your Clothes Off’, and characters from the popular ‘Addenbricks’ mini figures series highlight the benefits of staying mobile.
Health chiefs say ten days in a hospital bed equates to ten years of muscle ageing in people over the age of 80, and is known in medical circles as ‘deconditioning’.
This week there are nearly 397 patients spread across Addenbrooke’s over the age of 75, 180 over the age of 85, and 18 over the age of 95. Families are asked to help staff during the busy winter months by ensuring loved ones have a fresh supply of clean clothes and suitable footwear.
Consultant physician, Dr Stephen Wallis, said: “While our staff treat elderly with the utmost care and respect, these suits will give them an even greater insight into some of the challenges they face.
“That includes understanding how muscle bulk can deteriorate during the course of a hospital stay, and what steps we as carers can take to help people retain their independence and stay safe when they return home.”