Caregivers Can Reduce Risks of Heavy Lifting

 

Caregivers Can Reduce Risks of Heavy Lifting

 

 

 

A caregiver has more to be concerned about than merely the well-being of their loved one; their own emotional and physical state must be a priority.

 

Part of a caregiver’s self care is learning how to safely transfer a loved one, whether between chairs, beds and baths.

 

 

Many opportunities are available for a caregiver to injure themselves during such tasks, and consequently be of no help to the one they must assist.

 

Much of a caregiver’s work may include daily routines such as bathing, grooming, dressing, toileting, feeding and others. Excessive bending and lifting are physically demanding, and can make a caregiver feel tired and taxed.

Muscle tension, backaches, sore neck and headaches are only a few side effects of a caregiver’s job. As author Mary King says in Caregiver Safety for Moving & Managing Patients, “Sore muscles are one thing, but a chronic back injury, painful hernia or ruptured disc can cause major problems beyond the medical complications.” 

A caregiver can learn how to efficiently help a loved one with some simple lifting, transfer and assistance tools.

 

 

Safe Lifting For Caregivers

No matter a caregiver’s strength and physical endurance, without proper lifting techniques, the rest is useless. The first tool for a safe lifting experience is making a plan! Never go into a transfer without first “walking” through it mentally.

A caregiver should know where they are going and how to get there.  Have the person positioned properly. Make sure the area is clear and free from interference. Position any assistive equipment in order to provide the optimal support to both caregiver and person being assisted.

 

 

 

The Importance of a Gait Belt

 

Proper use of a gait belt can reduce the struggles involved with this task and lower the risk of back injury.

 

 

A gait belt is an assistive device which can be used to help safely transfer a person from a bed to a wheelchair, assist with sitting and standing, and help with walking around.

 

 

See Also: Safe Transferring from Wheelchair to Toilet

 

 

It is secured around the waist to allow a caregiver to grasp the belt to assist in lifting or moving a person. When used properly, the belt protects the care recipient from falling and also protects the caregiver from injuring his or her back as they lift or move the care recipient.

 

 

A gait belt is usually 1-½ to 4 inches wide, and 54-60 inches long. The belt is made out of canvas, nylon, or leather with a buckle at one end. You can purchase a gait belt at medical supply stores, large pharmacies, online (e.g. Amazon), or even stores like Walmart.

 

A standard gait belt has a metal buckle that has loops and teeth. Thread the belt through the teeth of the buckle and then put the belt through the loop to lock it.

 

A quick-release gait belt has a plastic buckle that snaps into place to clip the two ends together.

 

 

 

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A gait belt should be used if the care recipient is partially dependent and has some weight-bearing capacity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some benefits of using a gait belt:

 

  • Provides assistance to the caregiver in moving an individual from one place to another. Gait belts can also be used to help raise a care recipient without straining the back.

 

  • Allows a caregiver to help stabilize a care recipient who loses his or her balance while walking. The belt acts as a handle that allows a caregiver to easily grasp onto the belt and stabilize the care recipient.

 

  • Helps protect the care recipient and caregiver from unnecessary injuries.

 

Be extra careful if the care recipient has a feeding tube, catheter, or medical issues involving their abdominal area. Consult with a physician about proper lifting under these conditions to find out if using a gait belt is safe.

 

Medical Gait Belt, Soft Nylon Transfer Belt With 6 Handles And Quick Release Buckle, Machine Washable - Back 4" Front 2" High Design For Maximum Comfort - Ideal To Ambulate Patients Safely

 

I recommended the Medical Gait Belt; it is made of soft Nylon, and had 6 handles and a quick release buckle.  It’s also machine washable.

 

 

 

 

For proper lifting techniques, I recommend the book Caregiver’s Handbook, profiled in this article below, which has excellent detailed diagrams and tutorials on lifting and transfers.  

 

Some basic lifting tips:

 

  • Make a plan.
  • Do not over exert.
  • Stand close with your legs shoulder-width apart to keep balanced.
  • Bend your knees as far as comfortable.
  • Let your legs do the work: Lift with your leg and back muscles.
  • Lift slowly; do not jerk.
  • Avoid twisting.
  • Don’t bend at the waist, but keep your back and neck straight
  • Face the person you are helping, positioning them close to you
  • Wear support, non-skid shoes
  • Never have someone grab your neck for assistance.

 

 

 

The Transfer Process

If a loved one is in bed (one of the most common and challenging transfers) and needs help moving to a different location, the process below is a step-by-step instructional.

 

If transferring to a wheelchair, the chair needs to be parallel to the bed, and the wheels of the chair locked. Before touching a loved one and performing any movement, it’s important that a caregiver explain what they are going to do.

 

After a short explanation, eliminating any surprises, the next step is getting the person to a seated position. If they are not strong enough to do this independently, a caregiver can place one arm under their loved one’s legs and the other arm under their back and lift up. They must lift from the legs, not back. Then, pivot and swing both legs over the edge of the bed.

If applicable and able, always transfer the person to their stronger side. An example the Strength for Caring Web site gives is if a loved one has had right hip surgery, they will most likely be able to help the most if transferred to the left.

 

Next, a caregiver should instruct and assist the loved one to scoot to the edge of the bed. Let a loved one use as much strength as they can to help themselves. A caregiver can then use the gait belt, by placing their arms around the loved one’s hips and grabbing to the belt.

 

Helen Pereira, a physical therapist, recommends asking a loved one to lean forward, bringing their weight over their feet. Use the belt and their strength to lift to the feet. A good hint here is for a caregiver to begin a rocking motion, to gain momentum. The caregiver should still be in front of the loved one while he or she is coming to a standing position and stabilizing his or her knees against those of the one being assisted. This provides the most stability for both participants. After lifting carefully together, then take small steps and lower to a sitting position in the chair, or other destination.

 

Practice makes perfect, and after a caregiver performs a few proper transfers, he or she will be a pro!

 

 

 

Patience

 

Patience is one thing a caregiver needs to have with any transfer.
The Family Caregiving Alliance (FCA) suggests that a caregiver allow their loved one to finish what they are doing before beginning a transfer.

Many times a caregiver will unintentionally rush because of their own pending commitments. This attitude is frustrating for a loved one who can sense another’s angst and hurried pace.  Especially if a loved one is memory or brain impaired, this sense of urgency must be curtailed. The FCA suggests a caregiver allows their loved one time, saying for example: “Mom, after you finish that last bite of cereal, we’re going to get you dressed and ready to see your friends.”

The other side of the emotional assistance a caregiver can show is respecting a loved one’s “reality”. Caregiving is a big responsibility and taking on transfers is no exception. It may take longer to get a loved one up and going for the day if they are confused, argumentative or just tired and not ready for the tasks at hand. As a caregiver, never force a situation. It will only make the transfer more challenging and tense, leaving room for error and injury.

Leave and come back after a few minutes, the FCA suggests. And, if a loved one still resists being transferred, a caregiver must weigh the pros and cons of moving forward. If it’s a simple question of taking a bath or not, it can probably wait another hour or even day. However, never leave a loved one in soiled undergarments, or lying down for hours at a time to develop bed sores. The loved one’s health is a priority!

 

 

 

Other Assistive Devices

 

Durable medical equipment is a big help with all transfers, of any kind.

In addition to gait belts, this kind of equipment includes products such as walking canes and walkers.  Often, having a stable object for a loved one to grasp and assist in standing is the key for a successful transfer.

See Also:

 

 

Many other important safety devices can be purchased without a doctor’s prescription, including raised toilet seats, plastic shower chairs, transfer discs or cushions, and portable seat lifts.  These items can provide invaluable assistance in daily activities for both the caregiver and the patient.

 

 

A pivot disc is an item that not every caregiver is aware of; it is designed for assisted or unassisted transfers by individuals with limited or no ability to pivot.

Individuals with upper body strength can use the Pivot Disc to accomplish independent transfers, and it’s an excellent caregiver assistance tool.

I recommend the Safety Sure® Pivot Disc (weight capacity: 400 lbs)

 
 
This video shows how to to use the pivot disc properly:

 

 

 

Essential Medical Supply Adjustable Hand Bed Rail with Floor Support

 

 

 

A bed rail can also be particularly very useful for transfers from bed to a walker, wheelchair, or simply to a standing position.

To make sure bed rails are appropriate for your situation, read my post Risks of Bed Rails:  Should You Install Them?

 

Also Recommended:  The UPEASY Seat Assist

Uplift UPEASY Liftchair Lift Chair Liftup Seat UPE 3

The UPEASY Seat Assist is a mechanical lifting cushion that will ease an individual into their seat, as well as help them up. Its lifting action releases gently as they begin to stand, lifting up to 80% of their body weight, as needed. Seat Assist requires no electricity to operate, so it’s convenient to take everywhere you go. It’s also adaptable to fit most armchairs and sofas, so it can be quite handy to have one of these in the home, to use when and where needed.

 

 

 

Patient Resistance to New Devices is Common

 

Sometimes introducing a new assistive device makes people uneasy. If a loved one resists any assistance or assistive devices, a caregiver may need to have a conversation with them, explaining the risks to both people if these tools are not used. It is important for your loved one to feel in control and that they are making independent decisions for their care.

 

 

 

Don’t do it Alone

 

A caregiver can and should rely on the strength of their loved one to assist in lifting and transferring. Solicit your loved one’s help by having them shift their weight, move their arms to make the assisting easier, or push up with the strength they do still possess.

Remember that a small amount of help from the one being transferred equals a lot less work for a caregiver.

If a loved one is unable to help and too heavy for one person to life, seek help. A caregiver should never put themselves in harm’s way during a transfer. 

If it’s a non-emergency situation and a caregiver finds themselves unable to physically assist a loved one, they should call the local fire department and request a “fireman’s assist,” says the Family Caregiving Alliance. The local squad will come to the house and help. And, of course, in any emergency, call 911.

A caregiver who remains calm and collected, explains the process to their loved one, and uses simple safety measures will be able to complete almost any transfer with ease.  Soon they will be moving a loved one with confidence and control.

 

Recommended Reading:

Caregiver’s Handbook

A compassionate and comprehensive resource for anyone who needs to take care of an elderly person at home, the Caregiver’s Handbook is an invaluable reference that offers constructive, illustrated guidance for first time and beginning caregivers, including information on essential first aid, advice on selecting professional help when needed, and dealing with a variety of common conditions.  Read reviews.

 

 

 

 

Please help fellow caregiver readers by sharing your lifting and transferring thoughts and tips in the comment section below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blue Emu and Australian Dream – Which One is Better?

Helping Your Older Adult Move From Wheelchair to Toilet

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Risks of Bed Rails – Should You Install Them?

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Choosing a Medical Walker

 

Choosing the Right Medical Walker

 

 

 

If your loved one is feeling weak and unsteady, it may be time to consider a walking aid. 

My mother became quite weak and unbalanced as a result of extended periods of being bedridden and muscle wasting.  She first began to use a walker when it was provided in the hospital for her to use to get to the bathroom and to walk in the hallway if she was able.

It can be difficult to see someone you knew as able bodied suddenly using (and needing) a walking aid because it is a stark reminder of their illness and disability.  This was early enough in the disease that Mom was having some periods of stability; so when she was discharged from the hospital, it was necessary to look into purchasing her own walker.

 

My parents purchased a terrific walker with a basket and a seat, and Mom found it very useful for when she was able to go out for short walks and visits, and for attending medical appointments.  Her walker was a “rollator” type, meaning it had wheels on it.  Hers was a four-wheel walker which allowed her to place weight on the walker as she  moved.

Later on, when Mom was back in the hospital, she brought her own walker with her, and was glad to have it with her, as it was the proper size and she was used to it.

 

 


Good Example:  The Drive Medical Adjustable Height Rollator with 6″ Wheels  includes an adjustable seat and handlebar height and offers great comfort and support.

 

The rollator frame’s height can be adjusted from 18in. to 22in. in 1in. increments and the height of handles adjusts from 29.5in. to 38in. This aluminum frame rollator comes with deluxe loop brakes for added security and features removable, padded backrest and padded seat with zippered pouch. It requires only simple, tool-free assembly.  You can see more details on the Drive Rollator here.

 

 

 

 

Considerations for Choosing Your Medical Walker

 

 

Will you be using it outdoors as well as indoors?

If using it outdoors you should consider looking at a rollator with larger wheels on it as they will be more stable outside. Wider wheels also track better over rougher surfaces.

 

 

Will you be lifting onto a bus, up stairs, or into a vehicle? 

Lighter weight walkers are better if you are lifting the walker. You also want to look at whether you have to remove the basket before it can be folded and if so how easy is it to remove.

 

 

Do you have limited space for storing it?

If you have a small home you should look at walkers that fold up smaller and can stand on their own when folded so they can easily be stored in a closet or hallway.

 

 

Note that basic walkers (without wheels) are also an option.  They are called “standard walkers,” and are designed  for people for whom stability is a significant concern.

 

 

Recommended Basic Walker – The Invacare I-Class Dual-Release Lightweight Folding Walker comes with a deep, wide frame with a large number of height adjustments. The walker features a lower side brace for added stability and is easy to lift and maneuver. It has anti-rattle silencers that provide quieter operation and PVC handgrips for comfort and long-lasting wear. 

 

The drawback with standard walkers is that you must pick up and move it as you walk.  Most people end up choosing between two-wheel and four-wheel walkers.

 

 

 

Fitting Your Walker

 

The walker should be adusted so that it fits your arms comfortably. This will reduce stress on your shoulders and back as you use the walker. To tell if your walker is the correct height, step inside your walker and:

 

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  • Check your elbow bend. Keeping your shoulders relaxed, place your hands on the grips. Your elbows should bend at a comfortable angle of about 15 degrees.

 

  • Check your wrist height. Stand inside the walker and relax your arms at your sides. The top of your walker should line up with the crease on the inside of your wrist.

 

 

Other Fitting Considerations

 

Walkers have adjustable arms that allow you to raise or lower the push handles.

 

  • The height of the seat will vary from person to person and depend on leg strength; tall people with good leg strength sometimes prefer a lower seat, even though they might be measured for a higher one.

 

  • Shorter individuals might be measured for a low seat, but prefer a taller one because they have bad knees or poor leg strength. For them, the less they have to bend, the better. Generally, however, when sitting on the seat, your feet should be flat on the floor.

 

A good rule of thumb for knowing if your walker fits you is to stand in front of your it in a relaxed but upright position. You don’t want to strain to point that you are creating discomfort while standing, but you do want to get better at remaining aware of your posture and striving to improve it. Standing straight, allow your arms to fall loosely at your sides. The top of the push handle should meet at the approximate location of your wrist. If the push handle is closer to your fingertips, the walker is too short and needs to be adjusted. If the push handles are closer to your elbow, the walker is too high. In both cases, you will need to adjust your walker so that it fits your properly (If you have already adjusted it and there is no adjustability left, you might need a new walker).

 

View medical walkers on Amazon.

 

Keep in mind that walkers are not meant to be pushed in front of you like a shopping cart. Otherwise if you stumble the walker can push forward and you could fall. When you walk with your walker you should be standing in next to the seat.

 

Often people feel like the handles on their walker are too low but when you stand properly next to it you’ll find those handles are higher than you thought. Try standing next to the walker with arms at your side and to look for the handles to be at wrist-watch height. If they line up with your watch you should be good to go!

 

 

Walker Accessories

 

Accessories can make it easier to use your walker.

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Trays can help you carry food, drinks and other items to a table. A pouch attached to the side can carry books or magazines. Some walkers can also be fitted with seats or baskets.

 

 

Some Ideas –

The Nova Ortho-Med Tray  is a convenient way to transport food and other personal items. The tray features a cup holder that prevents drinks from spilling. This is easy to installs with 4 attachable clamps. This tray can fit to 4080 and 4090 series folding walkers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EZ-ACCESS ories Walker Carryon, Front Mount, 2.25 Pounds
 

 

EZ Access Walker Carry-On – Durable, lightweight, water-resistant nylon design and three deep pockets make this front mounted bag a necessity for every walker! Allows hands-free transportation of personal items. Custom designed detachable beverage holder.

Drive Medical Walker Basket, White

 

 

The Drive Medical Walker Basket  features a cup holder and a plastic tray. This basket can complement any 1″ folding walkers to make transporting personal goods easy.

Be sure not to overload your walker.

 

 

 

Remember that whichever walker you choose, make sure you maintain it. Worn-out or loose rubber caps or grips and loose or excessively tight brakes may increase your risk of falling while using a walker.

 

If you think it might be time for a walker, take some time to think about your physical needs, and how and where you will be using it.  Walkers come in a variety of configurations these days, most fold for storage and transporting and all help keep people who are unsteady on their feet stay safe while walking and standing by providing a stable device to put their weight on. Where they will differ is in their design.

 

View medical walkers on Amazon.

 

I’d love to hear from you if you have had experience shopping for or using a walker.

 

You may also be interested in:

Guide to Bathroom Grab Bars and Hand Rails

Choosing a Transport Chair

Best Power Wheelchairs

Plan Some Summer Outings With Your Senior

Keep Your Elder Safe in Hot Weather

Important Tips to Keep Your Senior Hydrated

Best Digital Thermometers – Full Reviews

Getting Your Wheelchair Into the Car

 

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