Academic journal article Research and Theory for Nursing Practice

How to Accommodate Women with Mobility Limitations in Biological Studies

Academic journal article Research and Theory for Nursing Practice

How to Accommodate Women with Mobility Limitations in Biological Studies

Article excerpt

People with disabilities should be routinely included in research studies if there is no specific reason for their exclusion. Regardless, they may be inadvertently excluded because of the procedures of the study. By conducting a community-based biological study with women aging with mobility limitations, these authors gained further understanding of their accommodation needs during research participation. The women aging with mobility limitations offered specific physical, cultural, or environmental needs that could have influenced the methods, procedures, and possible outcomes involved when conducting a biological study with this community living population. The authors and participants identified methodological challenges for women with mobility impairments within three key areas: recruitment procedures, laboratory procedures, and community-based data collection. The authors propose possible solutions to these identified challenges. It is our hope that this will begin a larger dialogue on how to routinely accommodate people with disabilities in biological research studies.

Keywords: biological; older women; mobility limitations; disability; research design

Inclusion of biological data in gerontological research can provide valuable information that may improve quality of life and possibly prolong life in our aging population (Thompson & Voss, 2009); however, there may be challenges when collecting community-based biological data in older women with mobility limitations. According to long-time women's health expert and disability activist Nosek (2000), women with mobility limitations are at risk for being excluded from these types of studies because they may complicate research designs because of their comorbid conditions and their atypical functional abilities (Nosek, 2000). Biological data collection procedures may need to be tailored to meet the needs of the women thereby increasing the time spent designing and conducting the study; hence, this population of women may be inadvertently excluded from studies. More recently researchers have begun to include adults with mobility limitations in their studies; however, these studies are primarily aimed directly at people with disabilities or at specific diagnoses. There is still a need for general studies of health outcomes that include this population as part of the larger sample. To facilitate this, researchers need to be aware of what to expect and how to overcome anticipated challenges.

It is essential that nurse researchers examine biological data in groups such as older women with mobility limitations because it can provide further knowledge on disability and health outcomes in late life (Harrison, 2009; Kang, Rice, Park, TurnerHenson, & Downs, 2010; Whitfield, Angel, & Wong, 2011) that can be essential for the development of appropriate health care treatments and interventions (Nosek, 2000). For example, understanding cortisol levels and stress may reveal information about the daily life of older adults with mobility limitations (Kalpakjian, Farrell, Albright, Chiodo, & Young, 2009) and examining the lengths of telomeres may provide information on disability risk (Risques et al., 2010). Biological data in older women with mobility limitations may provide the needed knowledge to improve physical function, social engagement, and healthy aging in this population (Manolio, 2007).

To include older women with mobility limitations in biological research, the research methods and study procedures needed for this population should be clear. These women have unique needs that are important to anticipate before collecting biological data in the community. For instance, the women may experience fatigue (Harrison & Stuifbergen, 2001), pain (Harrison, 2009), and have limited dexterity (Crentsil, Ricks, Xue, & Fried, 2010; Feeny et al., 2012) that may present difficulties when collecting biological samples. Hence, within the context of a pilot study designed to investigate the relationships between biological influences (telomere length, cortisol, and C-reactive protein [CRP]) and psychosocial influences (pain, depression) on perceptions of disablement (impairment, function and disability) in women aging with mobility limitations, the authors sought to evaluate the need for accommodations when recruiting and conducting biological research. …

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