As a family caregiver, you might often have to lift and support your elderly loved one, especially as they get weaker in their old age. Without the proper techniques and strength, lifting your loved one can make your back ache and injured. To reduce the risk of back injuries and back pain for yourself, proper lifting techniques and methods must be learned. In addition to proper body techniques, family caregivers must also assess certain risks and control those risks while lifting and supporting their elderly loved ones. Keep reading for some caregiver tips on proper lifting techniques and to learn about common risks that are involved with lifting your loved one.
The most important aspect of lifting your elderly loved one is to reduce the risk of injuries to your shoulder, neck and back. To reduce any chances of injury when transferring or lifting your loved ones you should:
- Ensure that your feet and back are stable. Position yourself as close as possible to your loved one to keep your stability.
- Face your loved one and slightly bend your knees in a squat to prepare to lift them. Hold in your abdominal muscles and keep your back straight while your knees are shoulder width apart. This will add to your lifting strength and encourage you to lift from your thighs instead of your back.
- Maintain your position as close to your loved one as possible so that you do not strain your back by leaning over or bending over during the lifting process.
- When you are turning your loved one from side to side or from back to side then distribute your weight equally between both of your feet and avoid bending forward too much. Bending forward can strain your back and neck.
- Point your feet toward your loved one as you lift them. If possible, then place one of your feet between their feet and your other foot on the outside of their feet to keep your and their stability. This position is best when you are lifting them into a standing position from a sitting position or transferring them into a wheelchair.
- If at all possible, then attempt to lift or transfer your loved one in a smooth, flowing motion as you push upward with your leg muscles. This will be the most comfortable for you and for your loved one.
If you are not a certified caregiver then you probably have not learned the proper ergonomics for lifting and transferring patients. Even so, you can still learn proper body mechanics to reduce the risk of injury to yourself and your loved one. These tips will help you keep your body strong and stable while you lift and transfer your loved one. When lifting patients you should also think about the risks associated with the lift and determine ways to alleviate these risks. Risk factors for injury for both you and/or your loved one include:
- The effort that is required to move your loved one.
- Your overall posture during the lifting process.
- The position of your loved one before they are being lifted.
- The number of times that your loved one has been lifted or moved throughout the day.
- The ability of your loved one to help you by moving their own body.
- The physical ability of yourself to facilitate the lifting and transferring processes.
All of these risk factors increase the risk of injury to yourself and to your loved one. It is essential that you pay attention to each of these risk factors to reduce the risk of injury. Besides learning proper body mechanics it is also essential that you increase your strength and flexibility while you are a caregiver. Doing so allows you to lift and transfer your loved ones easier and reduces your risk of injury. You can maximize your strength and flexibility by completing the following tips.
Maximize the Physical Environment
A large part in ensuring the physical safety of you and your loved one is making sure that their physical environment is safe. Their home environment should be accessible, comfortable and free of any type of safety hazards. The physical environment of your loved ones should aid you not hinder you. To maximize the physical environment you can add bars, add lifts, and add wheelchair ramps to aid you throughout your day.
Move and Lift like a Physical Therapist
Learning the proper body mechanics is key to lifting and transferring your loved ones without injury. The best way to do this is to learn to move and lift like a physical therapist. Physical therapists go to school for many years to learn all about body mechanics but they can help you learn a few quick and easy tips if you ask. Call a local physical therapist to see if they can come to your loved ones home and teach you a few tips and tricks on how to lift and transfer your loved one properly and easily. Within a few short sessions with them you should be able to transfer the skills you have learned to your everyday caregiving routine.
Take Care of Yourself
One of the best tips for reducing injury as a caregiver is to take care of yourself. Being the primary caregiver can be difficult both physically and emotionally. If you need a short break then take one, or if you need a bit of time off then call a local home care agency to get a certified caregiver to fill in for you. Also, exercise is a great way to keep your stress levels low and keep your body in shape for your strenuous job. Exercising a few nights per week can help you improve your fitness level and reduce your risk of injury. The stronger your muscles are, the less likely you will injure yourself while lifting your loved one.
Reducing your risk of injury is key to staying healthy and happy at your caregiving job. Doing so though may be hard at first. As you learn more about your job or your loved one grows weaker it is essential that you learn proper body mechanics, follow these tips, and take care of yourself.