EMS Tips Operations

Tips for Rapidly Rising Number of Disabled Adult Patients

A Centers of Disease Control and Prevention study shows that the number of American adults reporting a disability is rapidly increasing. 47.5 million adults report a disability – as shown in this graph.

As EMS providers you know the growing limitations of patients – inability to stand without support, not being able to walk short distances, or not being able to communicate medical history or present illness. And many patients have several of these disability causes.

Even if disability rates hold steady EMS providers will be challenged to safely and effectively interact with a large population of disabled adults. Is your service ready? Are you ready?

Apply these Everyday EMS Tips to be prepared for adult patients with disabilities.

1. Assume you will need to lift and carry the patient from their location (i.e. bedroom or living room) to the ambulance. Have alternative carrying devices and tools ready for the patient’s specific situation.

2. Maintain your physical fitness so you can assist patients with sitting, standing, or walking. As well as the inevitable lifting and carrying many patients will require.

3. Pain is a component of many of these disability types. Assess and manage every patient’s pain with non-pharmacological and pharmacological pain management tools.

4. Be prepared to rephrase or restate SAMPLE questions so patients can understand the question. Give patients time to respond to the question.

5. Acknowledge your patient’s disability while offering comfort and reassurance. Since we are all likely to live longer than the generation before ours we are all likely to encounter temporary or permanent disability. Treat the patient you will want to be treated.

By Greg Friese

Greg Friese, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is an author, educator, paramedic, and marathon runner.

Greg was the co-host of the award winning EMSEduCast podcast, the only podcast by and for EMS educators. Greg has written for,, Wilderness Medical Associates, JEMS Magazine, and EMS World Magazine, and the NAEMSE Educator Newsletter.