Habits and advice for the postural health of caregivers
The Caregivers physique is key for many people with physical disabilities and in situations of dependency. This type of work that requires dedication and patience can also be physically demanding as it often requires a certain amount of effort to lift the patients. For example, from their beds to their wheelchairs or the WC, or to change the patient's posture to avoid bed sores or make other positional changes. In the long term, this overexertion by the caregiver may cause a variety of health problems.
The education of caregivers regarding the importance of looking after themselves is vital so that either as professionals or family members of a dependent person, they may continue to carry out their work in the best conditions possible.
Common injuries sustained in the caring of dependent people
Many carers experience pain and back problems since starting their activities. In others, it can gradually worsen with time or after an accident (such as a pulled muscle). In both cases, these problems are usually triggered by a poor body posture caused by:
- Staying in the same position for too long.
- Adopting postures that may exacerbate certain physiological curvatures.
- Repeated overexertion.
- Making sudden or sharp movements.
The environment in which the caregiver works and their emotional state may also lead to the adoption of poor posture habits. For example, inadequate furniture, poor lighting, a lack of space, and being stressed or in a rush may force the carer to adopt awkward postures.
Basic guidelines to improve postural hygiene for caregivers
In order to improve their postural hygiene, caregivers should be familiar with certain postures that apply less stress to the muscles and ensure correct distribution of weight when carrying out their daily activities. It is especially important to protect one’s lower back to prevent the onset of lumbago, which can be highly disabling, but also other injuries of varying severity such as hernias, contractures, dislocations or scoliosis.
An understanding of elementary "biomechanical" rules before moving or transferring the patient is key to both carrying out the procedure correctly and instilling confidence in the caregiver.
Tips for making safe patient transfers
Transfers are movements from one place to another, for example, from a wheelchair to a bed or sofa, to the bath or shower or vice versa. Due to the nature of this action, in order to make successful transfers and avoid injuries, it is important that good coordination exists between caregiver and patient.
Some tips to carry out successful transfers are:
- Assess the size and weight of the person to be transferred.
- Be aware of their degree of incapacity and how much they can assist in the process.
- Support the patient in specific areas such as shoulders, hips, elbows and ankles.
- Try to keep both your own and your patient's skin dry to avoid friction injuries.
- Try to use the strength of the legs and not the back when lifting the patient.
- Keep the feet apart to ensure a balanced and stable base.
- Maintain the soles of the feet flat to the floor, avoid tiptoes.
- Keep the upper back straight while maintaining a slight arch in the lower back.
- Keep the patient close to the body without extending the arms.
- Turn the patient by using your legs, not your trunk.
- Avoid forward tilting of the trunk while extending the knees as this position can be very harmful to the back.
Transfer hoists are the best option to avoid injuries and ensure safe transfers.
Another excellent effort saving option is the auxiliary motor for wheelchairs, which allows the caregiver to push a manual wheelchair effortlessly. The Empulse R20 push assist from Sunrise Medical makes pushing a wheelchair much easier for the carer. In addition, it is the only motor that folds away together with the chair and is also the lightest on the market
Tips for position changes
Position changes are movements that are carried out on the same surface (usually the bed), making position changes can help prevent muscle atrophy, joint stiffness and pressure ulcers in the patient and improve their blood circulation. Usually, position changes take place twice a day, and as they require less effort than a transfer, they allow the caregiver to save energy, maintain a good posture and prevent back pains.
Ideally, the caregiver should establish a personalised rotation schedule which allows control over various patient postures. Some tips for carrying out position changes are:
- Whenever possible, try to get the patient to make their own position changes.
- Avoid sudden sharp movements that may cause pain to the patient.
- Avoid direct contact with any patient sores or injuries.
7 healthy habits for caregivers
These healthy habits are not only designed to improve the caregiver's postural hygiene but also to facilitate and streamline their tasks, thereby improving communication with the person they are caring for.
- Always look after your back, not only in work situations but also in your normal daily life. It is important to feel and maintain correct physiological curvatures in the body while standing and not force them in any way, walk with the head held upright, adopt a good posture when sitting down, drive with the lower back correctly supported in the car seat and always use the strongest and largest muscles when exerting force.
- Watch your weight and take regular exercise to improve your postural hygiene and strengthen your back.
- Make your working environment as comfortable as possible. This involves the adaptation of the caring environment by removing unnecessary or damaged furniture. This way, you can avoid awkward postures and falls and make your work easier.
- Familiarise yourself regarding which support products are available in the marketplace to facilitate your work and reduce your physical effort.
- Think before you act. This is highly important to avoid injuries associated with overexertion and poor posture. This involves assessing to what extent you can count on the collaboration of the patient.
- Carefully assess each position change or transfer depending on the personal situation and development of each patient.
- Make an effort to train yourself to improve your postural hygiene and carry out your work in a safer manner. Asking for help from health professionals and specialised services can be very helpful in preventing injuries associated with caring for dependents.
We hope that this advice will help you to improve your postural hygiene and physical well-being in your daily routines. Our aim? To help you avoid injuries and health problems both now and in the future.