People who care for individuals with special needs must remember to take care of themselves. There are many hazards that come with the job of caregiver. In order to be at their best when helping patients or loved ones, caregivers need to observe best practices when performing tasks.
One area where extra care should be taken is lifting heavy items. This is the cause of most back pain and injuries. Every day, caregivers go through the motions of picking up, carrying or lifting their patients. Moving furniture and large medical supplies such as medical equipment and machines can also cause injury.
The good news for caregivers is that preventing shoulder, neck and back injuries is easy, as long as proper steps are taken when handling load-bearing situations. Here are a few tips, ideas and reminders to follow:
- Assess risks in a given situation. Many times, in the rush of things or during emergency situations, caregivers move quickly and act instinctively. A situation should always be assessed for risk, especially when it involves lifting or transporting a patient. Estimate the effort required to perform the task, and take into consideration the physical traits of both caregiver and patient.
- Control or mitigate the risks. Reducing risk in a situation where the lifting of heavy weight is involved may include enlisting physical help or support from other individuals. If the caregiver is does not have the physical strength or stamina to complete a task, he should not attempt to do so. Equipment, machines, or accessories designed to assist in lifting can be employed. These include motorized wheelchairs and patient transfer lifts, for instance. Other simpler but effective measures include installing grab bars or handles in high-risk areas such as bathrooms.
- Observe proper lifting techniques. Reducing the risk of injury when carrying or lifting weight starts with correct lifting technique. Orthopedic doctors and nurses are well-versed in these maneuvers and can train caregivers.
The caregiver should start with proper anchoring. Both feet should be stable and planted on the ground as close as possible to the patient or object being lifted. Next, bend both knees and squat. Avoid bending over at the waist when picking up something as this motion can cause strain or injury to the back.
Hold the core or abdominal muscles tight and keep the back straight when lifting. Abdominals provide the source of strength and will naturally enable more power from the extremities such as the legs and arms. Keep the person or object being lifted as close to the body as possible to reduce strain on the back.
Finally, make sure to carry out the task in smooth motion. Avoid sudden movements or jerking to prevent loss of balance and potential slipping or falling.
Caring for a patient or loved one is a tough responsibility, but it need not be a dangerous one. Caregivers should remember that the welfare of their ward depends on their well-being, so it is important to consider their own safety at all times.