Moving a bedridden person can be physically challenging. Both the patient’s and the caregiver’s well-being must be taken into consideration when changing positions or moving out of the bed. Using the right movement techniques will help protect the patient and ensure that his or her needs are met. It also ensures that the caregiver doesn’t suffer any avoidable injuries while moving the patient.
Note: This article is for information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Seek the advice of a trained medical professional when caring for a bedridden person.
Lifting Safety 101
Before attempting to move someone who is bedridden, there are a few general safety protocols you should follow:
- Always keep the patient close to your body.
- Make sure that your neck and head are always in proper alignment with your spine.
- Your feet should be shoulder-width apart to maintain balance.
- Do not bend at the waist. Maintain your spine’s natural curve.
- Use your leg muscles to lift and pull.
- Do not twist your body when carrying a person.
Do not attempt to move someone who is too heavy, uncooperative or in an awkward position on your own. Ask for help.
Also, avoid sudden movements when moving a patient. Quick position changes can cause injuries, pain and even falls. It’s also possible to injure the person’s skin if the movement is too forceful or too quick.
Prepare the Patient
Repositioning or moving a patient can be difficult. Proper preparation can make the process as smooth and simple as possible.
Start by explaining what you will be doing so that the patient knows what to expect. A patient may unknowingly be uncooperative if he doesn’t know what’s going on. Ask the patient to help you if possible.
How to Turn the Person
Whether you’re changing positions or helping the patient out of bed, the first step is to turn the patient.
Start by standing on the same side of the bed toward where you plan to turn the patient. Position the patient’s arms above his head with his hands clasped. Make sure his knees are slightly bent.
With one hand on the person’s shoulder and one hand on the hip, rotate his body towards you. Be gentle.
Once in the right position, move the patient back to the center of the bed. Place a pillow between the knees and behind the back for added comfort.
Evaluate the patient’s position. Make sure the knees, ankles and elbows are not resting on top of one another. The head and neck should be aligned with the spine to avoid pain. If the neck is stretched, to the side, back or forward, readjust to the proper position.
If necessary, make sure that the side rails are up, and return the bed to a comfortable position.
Ask the patient if he’s comfortable before leaving the room. Use pillows for added support and comfort in key areas, such as the head, back and knees.
How to Move the Person from the Bed to a Chair
Moving a patient from the bed to a chair or wheelchair is a more strenuous process and must be done carefully.
Start by moving the chair as close to the bed as possible. If the person is being moved into a wheelchair, lock the wheels to keep the chair securely in place.
If the patient is unable to sit up on his own, you can provide assistance. Place one arm under the person’s back and the other under the person’s legs. Move the legs over the edge of bed while pivoting the body. This movement should place the patient at the edge of the bed.
To assist with standing, have the patient place his hands on your shoulders. While bending at the knees, feet shoulder-width apart, wrap your arms around the person’s waist with your hands clasped behind his back. This position will provide optimal support as he moves into the standing position.
To get the patient into the chair, pivot his body slightly until his back is facing the chair. Have the patient slowly lower down into the chair as you support his back.
How to Move the Patient Up in Bed
Bedridden patients may slowly slide down when spending long periods of time in bed. Eventually, the patient may be asked to move back up for better comfort.
MedLine Plus recommends using the slide sheet method to avoid injuring the patient. You will need at least two people to move the patient in bed using this technique.
Start by telling the patient what you’ll be doing. Make sure that the bed is flat. Roll the patient to one side, and place a half rolled-up sheet against his back.
Next, roll the patient back onto the sheet, and spread the sheet out flat underneath the patient. The hips, shoulders and head should all be on the sheet.
Caregivers should stand on opposite sides of the bed. The goal here is to pull – not lift – the patient to the head of the bed.
Each caregiver should grab their respective side of the sheet, place one foot forward, and count to three. Caregivers will want to agree when to begin the lift. Normally, a 3-count is recommended. The patient should be moved by grasping and moving the sheet toward the top of the bed. This may need to be done multiple times to get the patient into the proper position.
Use the Right Equipment
Using the right equipment can help minimize the risk of injury to both you and the patient. Caregivers have a myriad of tools at their disposal that can make moving and transferring a patient safer and more efficient. These tools include:
- Slide boards, which can be used to move a person from a bed into a bedside commode, wheelchair or chair.
- Gait belts, or transfer belts, can be used to help the patient stand.
- Roll aids, which help slide patients into the required position.
- Pivot discs help patients with impaired mobility pivot into the appropriate position before being lowered into a chair or wheelchair.
- Hoyer patient lifts help move patients that require 90-100% assistance getting in and out of bed.
When moving patients, even with equipment, it’s important to be gentle and smooth with your movement. Doing so will help prevent injury and discomfort.
Tim is a professional caregiver who has helped hundreds of seniors gain back their freedom and independence. He has been actively helping the senior community for 20+ years.