Protecting and ensuring the safety of elders is of prime importance for home caregivers. However, many don't stop to think about protecting themselves from injury. By protecting the caregivers, we also provide a safe and secure environment for such care. Preventing injuries, especially back and shoulder injuries (the most common), can be achieved through proper education and attention to body positioning when lifting, turning and transferring patients from one location to another.
The most important aspect of preventing shoulder, neck, and back injuries is a proper lifting technique. To reduce chances of injury, when transferring patients, caregivers should:
1. Make sure that feet are stable, and as close as possible to the person being lifted.
2. Face the person to be lifted, slightly bend the knees and squat in preparation to lift. Hold in the abdominal and keep the back straight. This will add lifting strength and encourage additional power from legs and arms.
3. Maintain a position as close to the person as possible so that excess strain is not placed on the back by leaning over.
4. When turning a loved one from back to side, distribute weight equally between feet and try to avoid extended forward bending movements as much as possible.
5. Point feet toward the person being lifted. If possible, place one foot in between the person's feet and one foot to the outside for optimal stability.
6. Attempt to lift using a smooth, flowing motion, pushing upward with leg muscles.
When possible, alleviate awkward body positions while bathing, dressing and lifting a loved one. Avoiding twisting, bending, and stooping positions will help to alleviate strain not only on the spine, but also on muscles and joints.