We may not recognize the risk we are putting ourselves in the moment of leaning over someone for an extended period of time. We may not feel any different a few minutes after lifting up a person from bed or transferring a person from a chair to a wheel chair, but inevitably, it hits us the next day.

It’s the subtle throb in the lower back when lying in bed or the stiffness in the shoulders when opening a door that makes us realize we’ve strained ourselves by our actions the day before.

It is imperative to learn how to maneuver your body into the correct and safe positions when caring for others so you don’t injure yourself or them.

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.

• Use the muscles in your legs to lift and/or pull.

• If the person is too heavy, get help!

There are also various lifting devices you can purchase to assist in lifting a person.

Gait belt

A gait belt is a belt typically made of cotton or nylon webbing with a buckle on the end. It is a small, affordable device used to move a person more safely than simply holding their hand. It wraps around a person’s waist and the caregiver grasps the belt rather than the person to avoid strain on the back. It is most commonly used to move a person from a standing position to a wheelchair or from a wheelchair to a stationary chair.

Lift Chairs

Often disguised as recliners, these chairs contain electric motors for lifting the person into a standing position. They will also assist in sitting a person down and reclining them just like a La-Z-Boy — all with a hand held control.

Sit/Stand or Full Body Lift

A sit/stand or full body lift is a hydraulic-powered medical and home health device used to safely and easily transfer a person for bathing or moving from a bed to a chair with minimum physical effort. These lifts are affordable and easy to roll from room to room.

Remember, you can’t care for your loved ones if you don’t take care of yourself! Practice safe lifting techniques or consider a lifting device to avoid injuries.

By Carrie Robertson,  Research & Community Education cmsschicago.org