Take a moment to think about this common scenario: Your father is struggling to get out of bed and into his wheelchair without some assistance. As a caregiver, the task of actually helping your father is much harder than it seems, as he weighs a lot more than you do.
Unfortunately, this is a situation that people with mobility-impaired relatives and friends deal with daily. Without the right training on how to transfer someone appropriately, and without the correct mechanical assistance from a collection of the right tools and equipment, it can seem almost impossible for someone to give their relative the care and assistance they need without suffering injury. In fact, it’s even possible to injure the person that you’re trying to help when you’re using the wrong lifting techniques.
The Danger of Improper Lifting and Handling
According to information from the Centres for Disease and Control, overexertion incidents are some of the leading causes of injury in health care based settings. Nurses, frontline nursing staff, and other people responsible for moving and handling people in need of mobility help suffer from more shoulder and back injuries, an increased risk of tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome, and various other chronic concerns.
Combine the obvious problems of moving a heavy human being with the fact that obesity rates are continuing to soar, and family caregivers are aging, and you see how important the issue of safe patient handling can be. Injuries to caregivers include:
- Bone fractures and breakages
- Bruises and scrapes
A caregiver who cares with someone facing mobility challenges – such as an individual with a disability, or an elderly person with trouble moving, will often have to move their loved one several times during a 24-hour period. Most of these caregivers and the people in need of care aren’t actually well matched when it comes to size and strength. However, if you know how to lift and handle people properly, you can significantly reduce the risk of injury for everyone involved.
Step 1: Communicate
The first step in safe moving practices is taking the time to speak to the person you’re going to lift. Don’t simply approach a person and start to lift them without any plan or warning. Instead, take the time to put these people at ease, and tell them how you might plan to move them, or where you think you should move them and for what reason. Remember to continue communicating throughout the transfer too.
Step 2: Use your Legs
If you’ve ever worked in a professional position where you’ve been asked to move heavy boxes or objects before, then you should have been told that you never lift with your back. Instead of putting all the pressure on your back during a lift, you should be focusing on using the strength that you have in your legs.
Step 3: Help, Don’t Lift
If the person that you are caring for can move in part by themselves, then make sure that you make the lifting and movement process into a joint effort. For instance, ask the patient to help you wherever they can, and try to make sure that you’re working together as a team.
Step 4: Don’t Lift from Their Waist
Although it’s often tempting to wrap your arms around the waist of a person that you’re trying to lift, doing this can be more difficult for you, while increasing the risk of injury. Instead, try to make sure that you ask the patient to push themselves up using their arms, and support their forearms just beneath their elbows.
Step 5: Use a Hoist and Sling
Finally, remember that one of the most comfortable, safest, and dignity-preserving solutions available for managing lifting and moving is buying a hoist. Hoists can be easy to set up, and incredibly simple to use. Because they’re designed specifically to simplify the moving and handling experience, they’re the best way to reduce your risk of injury.