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Posted on: August 10, 2021
When bringing home a loved one with neurologic and physical impairments, there are many elements of daily life that change and take our attention. However, one of the most important things is for caregivers to take care of their health in addition to that of their loved one. Family members commonly ignore their needs when taking care of someone and this can lead to chronic pain and difficulty in being able to continue caring for another.
Many times, when participating in family training at an inpatient hospital, there is so much information to learn about how to care for a loved one that we often forget important skills to keep ourselves healthy. Caring for individuals with physical impairments can particularly result in injury and/or pain in the spine, shoulders, and knees.
Common physical demands include assistance with bed mobility, transfers, and locomotion. Many individuals require assistance with rolling, repositioning in a bed, and coming to a sitting position. This requires a caregiver to perform reaching, pushing, and pulling movements.
Transfers, or the act of assisting a loved one from one surface to another, adds rotation and lifting movements. Locomotion can include a combination of all those demands on a caregiver to assist with walking or propelling a wheelchair.
The key to preventing injury is maintaining good body mechanics while assisting a loved one. Some essential elements are the following:
Yes, this is harder to perform than one might think. Often incorporating these movements feels awkward and may take more time. Practice using good techniques is key to become accustomed to new or different ways to perform tasks to prevent injury. Let’s break down the steps of some common areas of physical assistance we provide.
The key to success and injury prevention is setting up the transfer before performing any lifting. Arrange furniture and devices before beginning transfer. Think through your needs. Remove clutter from the floor.
Another key to staying healthy and not sustaining an injury when helping another is to practice healthy movements. Exercise is essential. In order to effectively care for another, you must take some time to care for your own body.
Exercises include core strengthening, squats, weight shifting, and stretching. Many techniques for good body mechanics become less awkward with exercise and training. You don’t have to join a gym or spend hours exercising, just taking a little time regularly to work on your health helps.
How do you get started? First, talk to your doctor before body pains become severe. It’s always easier to address weaknesses or areas of injury before they become debilitating. We often see caregivers waiting much longer than they should, and this makes recovery more difficult and time-consuming.
Next, ask your doctor for a consult with a physical therapist to set up an exercise program customized to you and to train you in safe lifting and proper body mechanics. A therapist can even work with you and your loved one in transfers or bed mobility to facilitate better ways to keep you both healthy. They can help design a program specifically suited to you and your needs. In only 2-4 visits you can get the tools to keep yourself strong and healthy.
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