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tips for caregivers: Transferring

If your loved one needs assistance getting in and out of a chair, or moving from their bed to a wheelchair, you know that helping them with this task can sometimes be a challenge. And if your loved one is resistant to being moved, it may be seemingly impossible. Here are some tips to help you help your loved one safely (for both of you!) and minimize resistance.

  1. Make sure you give your loved one fair warning that you are helping them move. The benefits of this are twofold. First, even with limited mobility, your loved one likely has some ability to help the transfer occur safely and smoothly, but only if they know about it. Two, involving your loved one in the process helps them retain some sense of independence and involvement in their own care. Throughout the transfer process, give words of encouragement and gentle instruction.

  2. While movement is important to avoid muscle atrophy, pressure sores and other negative outcomes of immobility, an excessive number of transfers will increase safety risks and stress. Plan ahead to limit the number of transfers needed. Think about what activities you and your loved one will engage in during the day, and plot out what transfers will be needed to make that schedule happen. Can any of them be avoided without reducing quality of life?

  3. Be aware of your own limitations and avoid straining your back and joints while helping your loved one move. Make sure your feet are firmly planted shoulder-width apart, keep your back straight and knees bent. Don't pull your loved one up by their arms. Rather, stand as close to your loved one as possible and lift close to your body. If your loved one is able, ask for their help in leveraging themselves out of the bed or chair.

  4. Take your time. With each movement-such as rolling onto their side in bed, sitting up, or if in a chair, moving to the front and planting their feet on the floor-take a moment to make sure your loved one is not experiencing any dizziness or other difficulty. Once you have successfully helped your loved one out of the bed or chair into a standing position, give them a moment to get their bearings, become stable and avoid dizziness.

  5. Make the home environment "lift-friendly." Any chairs used by your loved one should have a firm seat and sturdy arm rests that will provide leverage when they move to stand up. Make sure there is adequate room around the chair for you to safely maneuver while helping them stand up. Remove all area rugs and other tripping hazards from the home. Grab bars and transfer benches can help with transfers in and out of the bathtub. Similar handrails can be installed by the bed to help with transferring or in long corridors in the home.

    A version of this article appeared in the Private Health News.