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

 

Example: Vive Transfer Belt

 

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.

It is secured around the waist to allow a caregiver to grasp the belt to assist in lifting or moving a person.

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

 

 

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 always 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.

You can find a wide variety of gait belts on the market.   I particularly like the Vive Gait Belt; it’s strong enough to handle bariatric weights, has six padded waist handles for gripping from any angle, and a quick-release buckle.

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!

 

See Also: Safe Transferring from Wheelchair to Toilet

 

 

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 Helpful 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.
 
Pivot Disk
 
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:

 

 

 

Bed Rails

 

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?

 

 

 

 

The Able Lift Bedside Rail is a good choice, is height-adjustable to fit any bed, and has the ability to support up to 300 lbs.  The organizer pouch is handy addition.

 

Example: Able Lift Bedside Rail With Pouch

 

 

The Universal Stand Assist, also by Able, is like a bed rail for chairs.  It can be used to stand more easily from most couches, chairs, or recliners.  It is height-adjustable, and has a weight capacity of 300 lbs.

Universal Stand Assist

 

Mechanical Lifting Cushion

 

Another accessory a mechanical lifting cushion, can be very helpful. 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. 

The 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.

 

Uplift UPEASY Liftchair Lift Chair Liftup Seat UPE 3
UPEASY Seat Assist
 

 

 

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.

CAREGIVERS HANDBOOK
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.

Suggested:  Caregiver’s Handbook. This is acompassionate 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.

 

 

 

Thanks for visiting and reading … I hope this article provided you some helpful ideas.  I welcome your comments below.

-Laurie

 

 

 

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Coping With Incontinence

Coping With Incontinence – A Guide for Caregivers

 

 

 

Many family and partner caregivers say that heavy incontinence would tip their decision towards moving a loved one to a nursing home.

What makes this such an emotionally difficult turning point?

 

Incontinence can be the last straw in a stressful caregiving situation.  Providing for the personal care needs of someone with bladder or bowel control issues will always be an unwelcome task, but there are many effective solutions to managing incontinence that can result in increased dignity and improved quality of life for your loved ones, and less frustration and difficulty for you.

 

Below are some of the issues that make incontinence so difficult to deal with, and tips on how to cope with these concerns.

 

 

Resistance

 

What should you do when your loved one is resistant to using pads or protective underwear?

 

An individual asked to use incontinence products daily may feel that they are no longer capable of taking care of themselves at the most basic level. Their response to you might be one of denial, anger, refusal or passive inaction.

 

 

Coping: It is important to talk with your loved one in a calm, understanding, and honest way about how their incontinence is affecting you and your ability to provide the best possible care for them. This can make acceptance easier—of the incontinence as well as the incontinence products.  If the care receiver lives with a mental or cognitive condition like dementia, learn the best approaches by taking a class or attending a support group where you can learn useful tools for more successful communication.

Be tactful; walking in and saying the house smells may offend the care receiver and cause a defensive response rather than one of cooperation.

Embarrassment

 

You might feel a sense of embarrassment not only for yourself but also for the care receiver. It’s hard to be responsible for caring for someone, like your parent, in this very personal and often invasive way. If you are caring for someone of the opposite sex, it can be awkward having to see, touch and care for their private areas. If you are caring for a parent of the same sex, it may still feel like you’re invading their privacy.  And finally, there is compassion for the loss of dignity felt by a loved one who now needs care at this level.

Coping:  Talking it out with supportive family, friends, or professionals can be helpful. Acknowledge your uncomfortable feelings. Hire a home care worker or recruit another family member or friend to provide care when is too hard for you to do.

Reactions

 

Caregivers are often not at their best when dealing with incontinence.  It might feel like the care receiver allowed an incontinence episode to occur on purpose to punish you. You might find yourself getting angry or impatient, especially if help is needed at an inconvenient time, such as when preparing dinner or sleeping. The cost of incontinence supplies can be a concern in the budget of the caregiver/care receiver. And if the care receiver is not cooperative, it puts even more strain on your relationship with them. Some people may also have physically reactions and discomfort to bodily fluids and odors.

 

Coping: Admitting to your discomfort is a good first step.  Pretending this is not an issue for you, if it is, only makes matters worse for both you and the care receiver.  Know that the care receiver is not trying to make your life harder; they have no control over what is happening.  This is difficult for them, also. Seek out help through an in-person or online support groups, from a friend or family member who has had a similar experience, or from a Social Worker, Nurse, Occupational Therapist or other health professional.

Emotions

 

You might find yourself getting angry or resentful for having to deal with this situation. Maybe it’s just too hard for you to do. Sometimes it may feel easier to just not clean someone up, but this is neglectful of the care receiver and puts the care receiver at risk for skin breakdown and infections, particularly urinary tract infections.

 

 

Coping: Acknowledge the many feeling you might have about dealing with incontinence and ask for help.  Support groups, either in-person or online, can offer you both emotional encouragement and tried and true practical strategies. No doubt other caregivers will share their research and experience with various products. Get product recommendations from your doctor, pharmacist or an occupational therapist.

 

Seek out products that make it easier for you and the care receiver. Having the right product for the right situation can make a big difference.

 

 

Consider hiring a personal care aide or allowing other family members help whenever they can. You don’t have to do it all.

 

Physical Limitations

 

Mismatched body types, physically disability, or age or disease related physical weakness may make providing incontinence care for your loved one difficult.   A small person trying to help a much larger person out of bed might risk hurting their back or straining other muscles.

You might be at risk for falling when roused in the middle of the night to aid the care receiver in getting to the bathroom or using a urinal.  And the lack of sleep that results from getting up several times during the night will definitely affect your functioning and capacity to cope the next day.

Coping: If you are caring for someone with a physical disability, such as paralysis or weakness, make sure you have a physical therapist or occupational therapist teach you how to use your body so that you don’t hurt yourself while trying to help the care receiver. Work with your physician to make sure any plan of care includes what YOU need as well as what the care receiver needs.  It’s okay to acknowledge your own limits and set limits when something might be harmful to you.

Planning

Going out with someone who is incontinent takes some advanced planning. Caregivers and care receivers often become socially isolated because of concerns about dealing with incontinence outside of the home setting.

 

Coping: Prepack two small shoulder bags with everything you might need such as incontinence pads, wipes, gloves, change of underwear and other supplies you require. Be sure to include a couple of plastic bag to stash soiled products.  Keep one bag with you and one in the car, just in case.

If traveling, look for a family/companion bathroom that allows two people to go in together. Or carry a laminated flyer that you can affix to the entrance of a public bathroom that says, for example, “wife caring for disabled husband inside”.


Know that in some states, like California, a state law allows a family caregiver or paid attendant of either sex to assist a care receiver in a public bathroom. Arrange to have a seat near the bathroom in an airplane or on other transportation. 

Keep in mind where bathrooms are on an outing, which will reduce anxiety for both of you. Stop by a rest room frequently, even if the care receiver has not said they need to go.

Time and Resources

 

Incontinence makes the caregiver’s job harder in many ways. Incontinence product leaks, their inconsistent usage, or even lack of use when called for, will result in more loads of laundry and more time consumed cleaning up the bathroom and around the house. Additional time is required if help is needed to bathe your loved one after a urine or bowel accident.

 

 

As personal care takes more and more time, you may find yourself growing less patient and more frustrated.  These feelings are only compounded if cleaning and bathing demands occur throughout the night leaving the caregiver without adequate sleep. Increasing time demands needed for incontinence care will influence when more help is needed, e.g. recruiting another family member or hiring an attendant, and possibly if it’s time to look into residential care placement.

 

One additional factor that cannot be overlooked is the cost of incontinence care products and keeping track of having enough stock on hand to meet the need.

 

Coping: Hiring help can take some of the strain off of the caregiver.  Many caregivers suggest searching online to find the best price for incontinence supplies and for finding coupons to help reduce the cost at the store.  Don’t hesitate to ask another caregiver – in person or on an online caregiver support groups – for their suggestions on the best places to buy products. 

 

You may ultimately decide that placement is the best choice both for you and the care receiver – even if you promised never to move then to a nursing home. Then the caregiver can return to being a partner, adult child, friend, sibling and not the personal care attendant. The change from loving partner to caregiver can result in grief, guilt and depression. Taking care of your own needs is most important in being able to care for someone else.

You are not alone . . .

 

It will be easier for you, as a caregiver, as well as for the care receiver if you can make incontinence care as natural as possible. It is, after all, very common—25% of women and 15% of men experience incontinence at some point in their lives.  It is also a symptom common to many advanced diseases.

 

 

Get a medical evaluation to see if there is something that can be done to decrease the urgency of needing to use the bathroom and to find out if it’s a treatable condition,  such as a urinary tract infection or prostate problem. Discuss with the care receiver’s physician if medication or bladder training would be effective in this situation.  Above all, seek out and get help from family, friends and paid help if possible so it is not all on you to do all of the care.

Important Tips for Caregivers Dealing With Incontinence

 

 

There are many things you can do to help a person manage incontinence. In some cases you can help decrease the number of incontinence episodes by making a few simple changes about the home.

 

Focus on identifying ways you can facilitate easy access to the toilet, transferring on and off the toilet and faster removal of clothes.

 

Things you can try:

 

  • Ensure the bathroom is easily accessible, relocating a bedroom to be close to the toilet can help
  • Install grab rails or bars in the bathroom and by the toilet if a person is unsteady on their feet
  • Keep lights on in the bathroom at night

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

If you are caring for someone with incontinence, you may find it to be one of the most difficult aspects of caregiving. 

Incontinence can be unpredictable, add dramatically to your workload and be very costly.  Follow the tips above and seek further advice from a healthcare professional.  Having the right products, the right advice and support can help make this aspect of caregiving more manageable.

 

 

 

Thanks for visiting and reading … I hope this article provided you some helpful ideas.  I welcome your comments below.

-Laurie

 

 

Incontinence Care Products at Northshore Care!

 

 

 

 

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