Caregiving and Back-Pain
Avoiding back-pain can be a challenge in the daily life of a caregiver. Helping the patient in and out of the car, in and out of the bath, in and out of bed or up and down stairs. Opportunity abounds to over do it and end up with a first rate back-pain. Not only are you suffering from your injury, your caregiving responsibilities are now more challenging.
Whether you are taking care of a baby, a toddler, or an elderly or sick person, if you are lifting someone regularly, you have probably experienced back-pain. And certainly, if you are a caregiver you are at-risk for experiencing back-pain at some time from lifting the person you are caring for daily. It’s important for you to do what you can to avoid a back injury.
Here are a few suggestions.
First, look for ways to avoid lifting heavy people and things.
- Is there someone else who can help you, or who can do all the heavy work for you?
- Is there a safe way to do the task without lifting and moving the patient?
- Consider ways to perform tasks with the care-receiver sitting or lying down instead of standing or moving to another location. For example, there are inflatable shampoo, shower, and bathing devices that can be used in a bathroom or bedroom so that the patient can sit or lie down if necessary.
- Look for ways to avoid lifting that are comfortable and safe for the care-receiver and yourself.
- Next, look for equipment and techniques to do the lifting in an easier and safer way.
- I found it easiest and safest to use a gait belt around my mother’s waist when she was transferring, just to give her extra security and make sure that she did not fall when transferring.
- In a hospital bed with a rail, the rail can be used to steady someone who wants to move from the bed to a chair or wheelchair.
- A transfer board placed from the bed at the same level of the wheelchair can be one way to move a patient from the bed to the wheelchair with supervision from a caregiver.
- A pole placed beside the bed can help someone move from sitting to standing position.
- For those patients who are unable to move from lying to sitting or to standing independently at all, there is the patient lift called the Hoyer Lift. This device is used by a caregiver to lift and transfer a patient with minimal physical effort and no assistance from the patient.
- Talk with a physical therapist about the best option for you and your care-receiver to use in lifting and transferring. They can recommend equipment and show you how to use it properly.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has some good suggestions for caregivers who are lifting others in an article “Lifting Techniques for Home Caregivers.” See the website of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
“When you lift or move a person:
- Maintain the proper alignment of your head and neck with your spine.
- Maintain the natural curve of your spine; don’t bend at your waist.
- Avoid twisting your body when carrying a person.
- Always keep the person who is being moved close to your body.
- Keep your feet shoulder-width apart to maintain your balance.”
Ask your nurse or physical therapist to show you the safest way for you and your care-receiver to lift and transfer.
Save yourself frustration, worry, and pain by using safe, comfortable techniques and equipment.
The back you save may be your own!