People aging with long-term physical disabilities (PAwLTPD) are aging at an accelerated rate beginning in middle-age. They face age-related challenges in conjunction with their existing disabilities; thus, maintaining independence as they age is often difficult. The aim of this systematic review was to examine the effectiveness of rehabilitation interventions for middle-aged PAwLTPD to participate independently in the home and community.
We searched four databases – MEDLINE, CINAHL, Web of Science, and EMBASE – for studies published from January 2005 to December 2020. Information from included studies was extracted using a critical appraisal form. Studies were categorized based on common themes, assigned level of evidence, and assessed for risk of bias.
Fourteen articles were included. Common themes derived were fall risk reduction, functional capacity, community mobility, and function within the home. The strongest evidence supports wheelchair skills training programs (WSTPs) among manual wheelchair users and targeted paretic limb exercise post-stroke. Moderate evidence supports exercise and multicomponent interventions for those with multiple sclerosis, adaptive strategy training and WSTPs to improve satisfaction with mobility for power wheelchair users, and home modifications/assistive technology for mobility-impaired individuals.
Interventions with strong and moderate evidence should be routinely offered for middle-aged PAwLTPD. Future research should focus on developing evidence-based interventions for middle-aged PAwLTPD.IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATIONMiddle-aged PAwLTPD face the same aging-related challenges as people without disabilities but will experience additional difficulties due to compounding effects of long-term health conditions and aging.Current effective interventions to promote participation for middle-aged PAwLTPD have been measured over a wide range of outcomes, and many interventions should be used by clinicians on a case-by-case basis.Wheelchair skills training was found to have the strongest evidence and is recommended for use with middle-aged PAwLTPD who use manual and power wheelchairs.