Reablement through time and space: A scoping review of how the concept of ‘reablement’ for older people has been defined and operationalised

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Background: While the field of rehabilitation has determined a common definition of professional practice, legislators and healthcare professionals in various Western countries have struggled to reach consensus about how the newer offer of ‘reablement’ should be organised, operationalised, and understood as a health service for older adults. International research indicates that there is confusion, ambiguity, and disagreement about the terminology and the structure of these programmes, and they may not be adequately supporting older people’s self-identified goals. Could an analysis of the concept’s genealogy illuminate how reablement can be more effective and beneficial in theory and in practice?
Methods: We conducted a qualitative and quantitative scoping review to determine how reablement has developed through time and space. Eligible articles (n=86) had to focus on any of the defined features of current reablement programmes; there were no restrictions on study designs or publication dates. In articles published from 1947–2019, we identified themes and patterns, commonalities, and differences in how various countries described and defined reablement. We also performed an analysis using computer software to construct and visualise term maps based on significant words extracted from the article abstracts.
Results: The fundamental principles of reablement have a long history. However, these programmes have undergone a widespread expansion since the mid-2000s with an intention to reduce costs related to providing long-term care services and in-home assistance to growing older populations. Despite theoretical aspirations to offer person-centred and goal-directed reablement, few countries have been able to implement programmes that adequately promote older people’s goals, social involvement, or participation in their local community in a safe, culturally sensitive and adaptable way.
Conclusions: Reablement is meant to support older people in attaining their self-defined goals to be both more physically independent at home and socially involved in their communities. However, until legislators, health professionals, and older people can collectively reach consensus about how person-centred reablement can be more effectively implemented and supported in professional homecare practice, it will be difficult to determine a conceptual description of reablement as a service that is unique, separate, and distinct from standard rehabilitation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number61
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2021

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