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> Be more assertive
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> Tempt your elderly or frail relatives outdoors
> Avoiding back pain
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> Moving the person you care for
> Relaxation tips
> Laughter therapy
Kate Lovett, Senior Trainer, Edge Services
Moving and handling another person, such as assisting them out of bed or into the bath or indeed out of a chair, is rarely an easy task for anybody. As the medical journal The Lancet put it in 1965: “The human form is an awkward burden to lift or carry. Weighing up to 100 kilos or more, it has no handles, it is not rigid and is liable to severe damage if mishandled or dropped.” Therefore, when giving physical assistance to another person, advice and training should be sought to reduce the risk of harm to either the handler/s or the person being moved. This would particularly be the case when any equipment is being used with these tasks including hoists, slings, slide-sheets, handling belts, transfer boards etc.
The advice below should be followed in conjunction with some formal training and merely offers some general tips on effective posture and basic back health to those carers who are assisting others with moving.
1. Do not attempt to move anyone if you are in pain
We all get aches and pains but if you are feeling particularly tired or you are experiencing some physical discomfort (particularly in the back and neck area) you would be best advised not to undertake the handling of another person. The risk of doing some harm to yourself or indeed the person you are handling is much greater in these circumstances.
2. Do not attempt to undertake a task which you suspect may be beyond your capability
Some handling tasks are more complex than others. This is particularly the case when any kind of equipment is being utilised. If you are unsure about your capability – seek advice first.
3. Plan the task – have everything you need to hand and give yourself enough time to complete it safely
If you have limited experience of moving and handling another person you will be best advised to have the tasks written down. This will include any equipment you will be using: have this close to hand. A rough idea how long the task will take to complete is useful information so that you can give yourself plenty of time - a rushed task is never safe!
4. Always keep your spine in alignment
When undertaking handling tasks try to keep your head, shoulders, hips and feet in alignment and all facing the same direction if possible. Twisting either your neck or shoulders or lower back and feet when moving another person is a sure fire way of causing yourself an injury. A useful mantra here is ‘keep my nose over my toes’.
5. Keep yourself stable with both feet flat to the floor and one foot slightly in front of the other
Stability when handling another person is essential for safety. Try to keep both feet flat to the floor at all times. Keep your feet roughly shoulder width apart and preferably with one foot very slightly in front of the other for maximum stability.
6. Always bend your knees and hips and not your back
Avoid a ‘top heavy’ posture if you can – this is when you are leaning forward from your lower back. This posture will make you unstable and will risk injuring your spine. Instead lower yourself by separating your feet and slightly flexing your hips and your knees. A useful mantra here is ‘keep my spine in line’. In this position your spine will relax into its natural curves giving you maximum strength and stability.
7. Move in close to the person when supporting them
Holding or supporting the person close to your own trunk will reduce injury. The further any weight is from your body the heavier it will feel. Just imagine how heavy a book would feel if you held it at your full arms length even for a minute or two! Consequently when undertaking handling tasks avoid over-reaching if you can, support the other person with your elbows flexed and close to your own body.
8. Pace yourself. Do not forget to take a break
No handling task is safe to undertake when you are exhausted. Take a break before you get to this stage to reduce the risk of harm to both parties.
9. To keep your back in good health keep active, move around and try these simple exercises
Keeping yourself active is great for your back health – swimming, yoga and walking are amongst the best. It is also good advice to ‘warm up’ before handling activities: some simple arm stretches and shoulder shrugs can help here. Try these four gentle exercises to help maintain good back health. However, a word of caution, seek medical advice first if you have any current spine (particularly neck) injuries and NEVER exercise if you are in any pain.
10. Make sure that you are comfortable when sitting and sleeping
To maintain good general posture think about your sitting and sleeping positions.
Do you slouch in your chair? Is your chair comfortable, relatively firm and relatively upright? A soft chair/sofa is not good for your posture. Try to sit with your hips and knees at a 90 degree angle and with your feet flat to the floor.
When was the last time you bought a new mattress? The general advice is a mattress over ten years old should be replaced. It is also said that mattresses should be turned every six months. Certainly, if you wake up stiff and uncomfortable you should think about replacing your mattress. However, it is also worth experimenting with some different sleep positions to get maximum comfort. If you sleep on your back try placing a small pillow in the small of your back. If you sleep on your side perhaps a pillow between your knees will help. You should always sleep with one pillow under your head to support your neck appropriately.
Moving and handling another person can be a difficult and daunting task. Hopefully this advice will go some way to help.