Caring for others is a demanding task. Providing care can be hard on caregivers both mentally and emotionally, but also it can be challenging physically. If your loved one has difficulty moving around safely on their own, you’re likely helping them get up and down from a seated position often.
If you’re tasked with taking care of a family member or have a career in the healthcare industry, your own safety should be a top priority as well. While caregiving it is important to take the proper precautions to prevent injuries to your musculoskeletal system.
Elders’ Helpers recently held a workshop for our caregivers to learn a few occupational ergonomic tips from an expert in the field. Safety for our clients is important, but safety for caregivers in the workplace is equally important.
Here are a few tips you may be able to apply at home while caring for your loved ones:
1. Wear sensible shoes.
Slip resistant and comfortable shoes go a long way in the prevention of injuries while caregiving. Leather or smooth-surfaced shoes, as opposed to those with a slightly raised or high heel, are the most suitable footwear as they will help prevent slips and trips on slippery surfaces.
2. Make sure pathways are always clear.
Aside from slippery surfaces and improper footwear, obstructions in the pathway are the next most common cause of slips and trips. Keep objects out of the pathways for both you and your loved one.
3. Practice good body position while safely lifting your loved one in and out of a lying or seated position.
Repetitive lifting can be a strenuous physical activity for even the most fit caregivers. Always be sure to lift with the legs, square up your body and shoulders, and do not twist your back while lifting. Awkward postures even in the wrist, arms, or shoulders can result in serious injuries to your back while lifting.
4. Use tools properly to help safely move your loved one to and from seated positions.
- Gait belts can help lift your loved one from a seated position or support them while walking around. Secured around the waist, the belt provides a place to grasp and support your loved one. When used properly, the belt protects the loved one from falling and also protects the caregiver from injuring his or her back when lifting or moving the loved one.
- Use pivot pads for easier transfer into and out of a sitting environment, such as a chair or toilet. The pivot pad allows the caregiver to be more agile in movements to turn the loved one and transfer them from a seated position, such as in a scooter or wheelchair, with less risk of injury.
- Use a lever bar inserted into the car door latch to assist with getting in and out of the car. The portable car handle locks securely and reliably into position to help users get in and out of a car safely.
- Install grab bars in the bathroom to help your loved one lift themselves. Most home injuries occur in the bathroom. To keep both the caregiver and loved one safe, it is wise to install grab bars in the shower and beside the toilet. This allows your loved one to help support themselves while moving around in the bathroom, thus relieving some of the pressure from the caregiver.
5. Use a sliding transfer shower bench in the bathroom to prevent slips and injuries while showering.
Transferring to and from the shower can be strenuous work for the caregiver. With a sliding bench your loved one can safely shower while seated. When finished, simply assist them in sliding the bench seat toward you, making it easier for you to help them get out of the shower.
6. Allow your body time to heal.
Caregiving is hard work; be sure to allow your muscles time to rest and recover. Taking time for yourself as a caregiver is extremely important both emotionally and physically.
Stay tuned for more caregiver safety information.
Over the next few months, Elders’ Helpers will be continuing our caregiver training regarding ergonomics and safety in the workplace. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you! Do you have any safety tips or advice you use at home to prevent injuries while providing care for a loved one? Please share your advice below in the comments.
If you’re interested in learning more about safe caregiving or have questions regarding safety practices, leave a question for our team in the comments below.
If you’d rather speak to an experienced staff member directly, our team of client coordinators and caregivers is always available to assist in any way. Please do not hesitate to call us anytime at 616-454-8305.