Monday 27 January 2020

Homeless people 'so unwell they can't climb hospital stairs' - study

St James’s was focus of study
St James’s was focus of study

A high proportion of homeless people attending a Dublin hospital could not even climb the stairs, research has shown.

Most of those who were observed were in their 50s or younger but moved like people who were much older.

The research, by physiotherapist Sinead Kiernan, followed a group of homeless people attending St James's Hospital in Dublin over seven months.

One of the men had previously played soccer for Ireland at under-age level.

The younger men had high levels of pain, low fitness and low cardiovascular fitness.

They suffered many falls and, due to depression or alcohol, were not taking exercise, leaving many unable to climb the stairs.

The findings, presented to the annual conference of the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists in Dublin, showed their mobility was of a level more often seen in older people, though 85pc were aged 60 or younger.

The research, called A Profiling Study of Physical Function and Performance In Homeless Adults Accessing Services at St James's Hospital, was carried out in response to growing numbers of in-patients in St James's Hospital who were registered as homeless and had high physical rehabilitation needs.

While the poor health profile and frequent hospital presentation of individuals who are homeless is often acknowledged, their overall physical status and physiotherapy needs are not known.


Most participants were male and living in hostels, and the average age was 47.

Mobility aid use - with a walking stick, crutches, frame or wheelchair - was high among this population.

Falls, which often led to hospital admission, were high among the study's participants.

More than half of the participants reported at least one fall over the previous six months, while 28pc reported more than five falls.

A high number reported they were in pain.

It was found that participants were less active now than they had been before, including the one-time soccer player.

The project was conceived by the physiotherapy department at Trinity College; Dr Julie Broderick and the physiotherapy department at St James's; along with the lead consultant in the area of inclusion health, Dr Cliona Ni Cheallaigh; and clinical nurse manager Ann- Marie Lawlee .

Almost half of participants were referred to in-patient physiotherapy during their admission at St James's and received a physiotherapy ass- essment and treatment.

As part of the assessment, participants were asked about physiotherapy.

It became clear that most had very little understanding of what physiotherapy was and how it could benefit them.

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