Caregiver Tips – Transferring


May 23, 2022

How to assist with transferring

If your care recipient needs assistance getting in and out of a car or chair, or moving from their bed to a wheelchair, you know that helping them with this task can sometimes be a challenge. Here are some tips to help you help them safely with minimum resistance. 

  • First, state your intention: that you are about to help them move. The benefits of this are twofold. First, even with limited mobility, they are likely has some ability to help the transfer occur safely and smoothly, but only if they know about it. Two, involving them in the process helps them retain a sense of independence and involvement in their own care. Throughout the transfer process, give words of encouragement and gentle instruction, keeping in mind that saying too many words may be confusing.
  • 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 any your care recipient 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?
  • Be aware of your own limitations and avoid straining your back and joints while helping them move. Make sure your feet are firmly planted shoulder-width apart, keep your back straight and knees bent. If the person has difficulty pushing up to stand, help them by having them wear a gait belt and holding onto this as you help them stand rather than pulling up on your loved one’s arms. If they are able, ask for their help in leveraging themselves out of the bed or chair.
  • 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 them out of the bed or chair and into a standing position, give them a moment to get their bearings, become stable, and avoid dizziness.
  • Make the home environment “lift-friendly.” Chairs should have a firm seat and sturdy armrests 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.

Turning and Positioning in a Bed

As a family caregiver, being able to safely position and/or turn your care recipient in bed is important for comfort and preventing bedsores if they are bed ridden. 

We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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