Healthy Transfers

If your loved one requires assistance getting out of bed or moving from a chair to a wheelchair, you should be very careful to avoid hurting your back during transfers.

The person you care for may need physical help to get around the house. She may need help to rise from a chair or toilet, get out of bed, or transfer from a chair to a wheelchair.

Depending on how much assistance is needed, consider getting professional advice before trying to lift or transfer someone by yourself. Physical and occupational therapists, home health aides and nurses can teach you techniques that will make your job easier and make sure that you and the person you help aren’t injured.

General Tips For Helping Someone Get Around

  • Encourage the person to do as much as possible for herself.
  • It’s much easier to stand up from a high, firm chair with arms than from a sofa or overstuffed chair. Consider a raised toilet seat (available at pharmacies and medical supply stores or through catalogs.)
  • Always tell her what you’re doing. “I’m going to help you stand up now.”
  • Allow plenty of time for her to do what you ask. “Slide to the edge of the chair.”
  • Don’t pull the person by the arms or legs. Hold onto her trunk and hips.
  • A wide transfer belt around the person’s waist gives you a secure grip.
  • Don’t ever try to lift someone heavier than yourself unless you’ve had proper training.

Be Kind To Your Back: Remember...It’s The Only One You’ve Got!

  • Always bend from the hips and knees.
  • Keep your back and neck straight.
  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Stand as close as possible to the person you’re moving. Think of yourself as an athlete. If you’re on the injured list, you’re out of the game. You can’t take care of someone else if you become sick or injured.

When You Help Someone Stand Up

  1. Ask her to move to the front of the chair and put her feet back under her center of gravity.
  2. Place her feet firmly on the floor. Use shoes or non-skid socks if her feet slide.
  3. Block her knees with your knees.
  4. Place your arms around her waist. Don’t let her pull on your neck.
  5. Ask her to lean forward, “Bring your nose over your toes.”
  6. If she can, ask her to “Use the arms to push up.” If not, lift on the count of “3.”

When You’re Helping Someone Out Of Bed

  1. Never pull him by the arms to sit up.
  2. Ask him to move toward the side of the bed, his strongest side.
  3. Help him roll onto his side to face you.
  4. Lower his feet over the edge of the bed.
  5. Ask him to raise himself onto his elbow and push up to sitting.

When You Help Someone Walk

  • If he needs minimal assistance, let him take your arm as you walk side-byside.  Holding his arm will interfere with his balance.
  • If he needs more assistance, walk behind him. Place your hand on his shoulder and, with the other hand, hold onto his belt or waistband.
  • Stand close and walk in step behind him.

If The Person Is Falling

  • Don’t try to stop the fall. You could both be injured.
  • Try to support the head and gradually ease the person onto the floor.
  • If you are behind the person, let him gently slide down your body.

If The Person Falls And Is On The Floor

  • Ask the person if he is okay. Check for bleeding.
  • If the person looks injured, is in pain, or can’t move any part of the body, call 911 immediately.
  • If the person isn’t injured, ask him if he thinks he can get up safely.
  • To help the person stand up from the floor, bring a chair close to him. Ask him to roll onto his side, get onto his knees, then support himself with the chair seat while he stands up.
  • If the person needs more than a minimal amount of help, do not attempt to lift the person by yourself. No one can safely lift an average-sized person from the floor without help.

Taking care of your back isn’t just good advice for you. You’ll be doing yourself and the other person a favor by practicing good back care.

Originally written and published by the Aging and Adult Services Administration Department of Social and Health Services, State of Washington. Reprinted with permission.

Washington State Department of Social and Health Services

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