When you are taking care of a patient or someone with mobility problems, you’ll probably need to lift and move them frequently.
They might need help using the bathroom, getting out of bed, turning in bed or standing up from a chair.
There are certain principles and practices to follow during manual handling of a person to prevent injury either to the care provider or the patient..
In other words, it is essential that you know how to safely move and handle them.
In this article, we explain principles for safe moving and handling, and provide some important tips plus resources where you can get more help and advice.
First make sure you can handle them
There are two things you should consider before attempting any manual handling of a person.
One, how heavy are they and two, are you strong enough to lift them.
If they are too heavy for you, any attempt to lift them will put both of you at risk of serious injury. I recommend getting professional help or using various types of equipment.
Make sure you are also in the condition to lift and move them safely. If your back hurts or you are feeling weak and dizzy, do not attempt to move them.
Safe moving and handling
Even if you can handle their weight you can still injure yourself if you don’t follow the best handling practices. Back injuries are especially common in care providers and can prevent you from providing the best care or any care at all.
Here are some tips to protect everyone from injury and embarrassment.
- Wear clothing that is suitable for the environment. For example, you need to wear the right footwear when moving someone to or from the shower to avoid slipping.
- Make sure there is enough space around you and that there are no obstacles in your path. You won’t be able to spot obstacles once you start moving them so make sure you have a clear path beforehand. Be especially careful about small obstacles like toys and cords that can trip you up and cause serious injury.
- Ask for help if necessary such as when you are moving them over a long distance or up the stairs. If it looks like you cannot move them on your own, don’t risk it. Have someone help you.
- Make sure the patient is aware that you are moving them. Some patients, especially those with dementia, might respond unexpectedly when you attempt to move them without warning.
Once you are ready to start moving the person, make sure you have a firm footing. This is especially important if you are on a slippery or damp surface.
Here are additional tips from the NHS.
- Never lift a person above your shoulder height. This will reduce your stability and greatly increase the risk of falling or dropping the person.
- Before you lift someone up, make sure you have a firm hold. Take your time to position your hands and feet properly.
- Take care to lift them in a way that doesn’t cause or aggravate injuries especially on the back, neck and joints.
- When lifting a person, try to keep your back straight and instead bend your knees. This will provide a smoother and safer movement for the patient and protect your back from strain and injury.
- Keep the weight of the person close to you. This lowers your centre of gravity and makes you more stable on your feet. If you hold or carry the person too far out from your body, you are more likely to fall.
- Be extra cautious when moving the person up or down the stairs, in the bathroom and around other high-risk areas.
Constantly lifting and moving a person is hard work and can cause physical strain on your back and joints over time.
Luckily, there are lots of equipment you can use to assist you in handling an elderly person. Here is a comprehensive factsheet from the Disabled Living Foundation with tips on how to buy each type of equipment.
You can hire some of the equipment while with others are eligible for VAT relief.
Some of the most helpful tools include:
- Wheelchairs. Ideal for use in the house, around the yard and on pavement.
- Mobility scooters or power wheelchairs. These are motorised wheelchairs that are especially ideal for outdoor use. Some mobility scooters can also be used on the road.
- Walking frames. These include basic Zimmer frames as well as 2-wheeled and 4-wheeled frames (rollators).
- Hoists and slings to help you lift and move a person with less effort and strain.
- Grab rails which can be installed near the bed, toilet and shower.
- Various bath aids to assist you in bathing the patient