Helping your loved one move safely around the house is an essential skill for home caregivers.
Think of how many times in a day your loved one needs to move:
- Out of bed
- To the bathroom
- Into the shower
- To the table
- Into the car
- To the couch
Every time you are assisting with a transfer you could be putting yourself at risk of being hurt. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Proper lifting techniques help you to assist an elderly loved one without hurting yourself.
- Use Your Body’s Strengths. Your body is capable of handling moving heavy weight, but you need to know which muscles to use for this task. Your leg muscles, as well as the bones, are the strongest ones in your body. Focus on using the strength of your legs to perform most of the lifting.
- Work Together. When you are moving your loved one, their assistance is your biggest asset. The two of you working together will reduce your chance of hurting each other. Talk through the steps you are going to take with your loved one. Count to three before you start to lift and then, together, rock into position.
- Plan Ahead. It is always best to plan your steps before you start to move. While you are assisting with a transfer you might think of something you forgot to grab. This can lead you to twist or overextend your body. You might also throw your loved one off balance with a sudden movement. Think through everything you need, from the walker in the correct place, face cloths or towels at hand, and shoes snugly fitted on.
- Think Safe not Fast. Safe transfers are steady and smooth. Moving quickly can make your loved one feel confused or rushed. Taking the extra time to set up grab bars and non-slip surfaces will pay you back with a safe transfer.
- Get Help. Not only do you need help from your loved one to move together, you can also use tools and technology to ease the transfer. Look into renting or buying tools that raise your loved one up higher, give them something to raise themselves or reduce the amount of friction when moving, such as:
- Slip sheets
- Slide boards
- Powered lift chairs
- Hospital beds (always make sure wheels are locked when transferring!)
- Raised toilet seats and grab bars
- Do Your Own Exercises. The condition of your own body will greatly impact how safely you can transfer a loved one. Regular exercise helps you to develop the strength and flexibility you need to repeat lifts throughout the day.
Focus on exercises that strengthen your:
- Upper leg muscles
- Abdominal and back muscles
The last four tips focus on specific techniques that will help you stay safe while moving someone at home.
- Use Your Legs. Protect your back by bending at your knees and hips. Keep your feet about shoulder width apart. Set one foot slightly forward in order to maintain your balance.
- Stay Together. Move in as close as possible to your loved one. The closer a weight is to your body the less strain it puts on your muscles. Lift your loved one by holding on around their hips or using a transfer belt. This prevents strain to their arms.
- Pivot Don’t Twist. Twisting while holding a weight can cause injury to your back and arms. Keep your abdominal muscles firm, your wrists straight and your chin tucked down. This is the optimal position for supporting another person’s weight. Help your loved one to rise up into a standing position, once they are standing securely. Move your feet in the direction you want to go. Turn as a single unit, then slowly lower your loved one into position by bending your knees.
- Stick to a Pattern. Practice a set pattern of how you move with your loved one. When you set up a regular rhythm for your daily lifts and transfers it helps them go more smoothly. Like dancing with a partner, when you both know the steps you move together gracefully and fluidly.
Example Transfer Technique: Helping a Loved One Out of Bed
- Get the person closer to the edge of the bed. Make sure they are still safe but that you are not needing to strain to reach them.
- Assist your loved one to roll onto their side. You can help by placing one hand on the shoulder farthest from the edge and one hand on their hip.
- Help your loved one to place their hand on the bed and to push up while you move their legs slowly over the edge of the bed.
- While they put their legs down you can also lift by their shoulder to a sitting up position.
- Place their feet firmly on the ground in front of the bed and ask them to slide their bottom to the edge of the bed.
- If you are transferring to a wheeled chair, have it close and parallel to the bed with the wheels locked.
- Ask your loved one to put their arms over your shoulders as you grasp them by the hips or transfer belt.
- Place one foot slightly forward, bend at your knees, and count down to three to stand.
- With a rocking motion build up momentum until your loved one is in a standing position.
- Once standing, pause for a moment to catch your breath.
- Then together shuffle and turn until the wheelchair is touching the back of your loved one’s knees.
- Slowly bend at your knees and lower your loved one into their chair.
These transferring techniques can be adapted for your specific situation. You can also reach out to a qualified home caregiver for assistance with learning lifting techniques for home caregivers.