Taking care of a spouse or family member at home can be both emotionally and physically challenging. Meeting the physical demands of lifting, turning, and transferring a loved one can put both patient and caregiver at risk for injury.
The most common injuries caregivers experience are to the back, neck, and shoulders, and are often caused by overuse — repeating the same lifting or pulling motions again and again.
Caregivers are at greatest risk for injury when they are:
- Pulling a person who is reclining in bed into a sitting position.
- Transferring a person from a bed to a wheelchair.
- Leaning over a person for long periods of time.
Using proper lifting techniques can help prevent injury. This article provides some general guidelines for lifting and transferring patients safely. Many communities and local hospitals provide training to help non-professionals properly care for a family member at home.
Some general guidelines to follow when you lift or move a person include:
- Keep your head and neck in proper alignment with your spine.
- Maintain the natural curve of your spine; do not bend at your waist.
- Avoid twisting your body when carrying a person.
- Always keep the person who is being moved close to your body.
- Keep your feet shoulder-width apart to maintain your balance.
- Use the muscles in your legs to lift and/or pull.
If the person is uncooperative, too heavy, or in an awkward position, get help.
Sitting Up in Bed
To move a person who is lying in bed to a wheelchair, put the chair close to the bed and lock the wheels.
If the person is not strong enough to push up with his or her hands to a sitting position, place one of your arms under the person's legs and your other arm under his or her back.
Move the person's legs over the edge of the bed while pivoting his or her body so that the person ends up sitting on the edge of the bed.
Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees bent, and your back in a natural straight position.
If the person needs assistance getting into the wheelchair, position the person's feet on the floor and slightly apart. Face the person and place his or her hands on the bed or on your shoulders.
Your feet should be shoulder-width apart with your knees bent. Place your arms around the person's back and clasp your hands together. Hold the person close to you, lean back, and shift your weight.
Nurses, physical therapists, and others in hospitals often use lifting belts fastened around a person's waist to help with these types of movements.. The caregiver then grasps the belt when lifting the patient.
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The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
9400 West Higgins Road
Rosemont, IL 60018