Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Take Steps to Prevent Caregiver Back Injury

I’ve seen construction workers in Philadelphia and other cities walk along fifty-storey-high metal beams like trapeze artists.  It looks like a job where you could get hurt.  And you can, but it turns out, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that if you’re a hospital or nursing home worker, you’re more likely than a construction worker to experience muscle injuries on the job.  And they’re often related to the back.

Caregivers and occupational therapists who work in the home have not been studied in as much detail, but the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health states that there is evidence “that patient handling is a significant risk factor for back pain and other musculoskeletal symptoms.”

1. Lifting Tips

As a caregiver, I’m sure you know the problem… all that lifting.  You’re helping transfer your client or loved one to and from the bed, chairs and toilet.  You’ve probably already learned the basics of how to prevent back injuries, but here are a few quick reminders:

• Your legs are your levers. Let them do the bending, not your back.  Keep it straight and don’t lean.

• Stay close to the person you’re helping and look at her.

• Pretzels twist and people pivot.  So turn your whole body when you need to.

• Balance.   Place your feet are as far apart as your shoulders and put one foot is slightly ahead of the other.

• Wear your comfy, safe, non-slip shoes.

• Ask for a little help from the person you’re helping.  That makes her feel good too.  When she’s ready to leave her comfy arm chair, ask her to move forward to the edge of the chair, put her hands around your waist, position her feet firmly on the floor and then lean forward.  Then block her knees with yours, and prepare her for the big move that’s coming on the count of three.

2. Helpful Products

Those tips will help you do the lifting yourself, but wouldn’t it be nice if you had a little help?  You probably know about a lot of products that can help you keep the one you care for moving in her home: canes, crutches, walkers, scooters and wheelchairs.  

But how do you help her negotiate the most difficult room of all—the bathroom?  When it comes to remodeling bathrooms for seniors, or just adding a couple of assistive devices, it’s all about bathroom safety and convenience.   Make access easy and safe with walk-in tubs, tub cuts for or walk-in showers, pedestal sinks and wall hung vanities.  Let the devices do the lifting instead of you with bath lifts and one of my favorite products, the Tush Push toilet lift.  Once it’s installed right over the current toilet (which is pretty easy) it lifts the user up from the toilet, just like a lift chair, at the touch of button.  It saves your back.  It preserves the user’s dignity. 

So when you’re caring for others, think of yourself and your safety.  After all, you can’t help anyone if you hurt yourself.  Always follow the advice for proper lifting.  And find an aging in place specialist who can help you select and install the products you need for your safety, and the safety of the people you care for.  If you’re in the Philadelphia area or Southern New Jersey (NJ), we’d love to help you.

Goodbye for now from George Flowers.

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