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How to Safely Lift and Transfer Elderly Adults

by Madhuri Reddy | Jul 01, 2016 | eldercare | 0 Comments


When lifting, moving, and assisting elderly adults, you need to use good and proper "body mechanics" to reduce the likelihood of injury to yourself or the other person. Follow these tips to make sure you are safely and correctly moving transferring people.

Proper Body Mechanics When Moving Elderly Adults

  1. Stand with your hold head up, shoulders back, chest high, and back straight.
  2. Place your feet hip-width apart.
  3. Shift so one foot is in front of the other.
  4. With your knees bent, lift using leg muscles rather than pulling with your arms.
  5. Do not turn from the waist.
  6. Do not reach out when lifting.
  7. Allow the person you are assisting to do as much of the moving as possible


Proper Moves to Turn or Position Reclining Elderly Adults

  1. When moving a person reclining in bed, be aware of your competencies. Communicate with the adult as much as possible as you move around the room and position yourself and the person.
  2. First, always wash your hands.
  3. Provide as much privacy as possible.
  4. Remove pillows from under the older adult’s head
  5. Have the older adult bend both legs and put feet on the bed. Ask the person to push down with his/her hands and feet, to help move toward the top of the bed on a count of three.
  6. Allow the older adult to do all or most of the work. Pulling the person with your upper body is likely to cause injury to yourself or the elderly adults.
  7. Ensure that the older adult has enough room to roll. If needed, have the person bend both legs and put feet on bed to allow them to assist with scooting over.
  8. Ask the older adult to help perform the roll by reaching in the direction of the roll. If the older adult’s legs are bent, it will make the roll easier.
  9. Put one hand under the older adult’s shoulder. Put the other hand on the older adult’s hip, then gently roll the older adult toward the other side of the bed.
  10. Make sure the older adult is comfortable.


How to Safely Transfer an Older Adult from Bed to Wheelchair

  1. When lifting a person from a bed, be aware of your abilities and limits. Communicate clearly with the person as much as possible as you position yourself and them.
  2. First, wash your hands thoroughly. Always make provisions for privacy.
  3. Bring the wheelchair close to the bed, positioned so that stronger side of the older adult is closer to the chair you're moving to.
  4. A cushion is best for comfort for most elderly adults when sitting in a wheelchair.
  5. Fold the wheelchair's footrests out of the way.
  6. Use proper body mechanics while assisting the older adult to move.
  7. Agait belt or pants belt will give you the most control when you're assisting an older adult to stand. Pulling on someone's arms during a transfer may cause injury to the adult’s joints or bones.
  8. Ask the elderly adult to push up from the surface they are standing from on the count of three ensure the older adult uses their gait device as part of the transfer


Use of Assistive Technology and Specific Adaptive Equipment like Mechanical Lifts

  1. Make sure to have a therapist or equipment company demonstrate the specific lift to you first, so that you will understand the safety steps involved.
  2. Position the wheelchair so that there is room to turn and move the lift .
  3. Ensure that the wheelchair’s brakes are locked.
  4. Always look for obstacles or objects which could cause injury if elderly adults bump into them
  5. E xplain what you are going to do, so that the person knows what to expect.
  6. M ove slowly while turning an adult in a lift, to minimize risk for injury and to allow time to spot potential hazards.


How to Assist Elderly Adults with Walking

  1. Ensure that supportive footwear is in place. Discourage slippers or sandals which are not strapped around the heels.
  2. Always utilize a gait device, if recommended by a doctor or therapist.
  3. Position yourself alongside the person's weaker side.
  4. Use a gait or pants belt if the older adult is not fully steady.
  5. Make sure to have the elderly adult turn fully and back up before attempting to sit.
  6. Encourage the adult to reach back with one or both arms before sitting.

Making sure that elderly adults are as mobile as possible is a huge part of being a great caregiver. It's important to keep everyone safe during any process of moving an adult from one position or location to another. Always remember that safety comes first.

Picture of Madhuri Reddy

Madhuri Reddy

Dr. Reddy is a specialist in Internal Medicine & Geriatric Medicine, and holds appointments at Harvard Medical School & Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, MA. For years she has seen first hand the struggles that families and caregivers go through while caring for older adults.

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