Transferring elder patients to or from wheelchair, bed, chair, or car

It’s Scary in Transfervania


It’s scary at any time of year to transfer the elderly, not just at Halloween. Not only are you at risk for hurting your elder loved one, you are just as much at risk for hurting yourself. Take a moment to look over the following tips before you take on moving your elder from their chair or bed.

Talk to the person about what will happen during the transfer. Decide how to do the transfer, and talk about the transfer as you are doing it.  Speak slowly and clearly. Tell him what will happen at each step before you do it. Tell him that you must work together with him during the transfer, and to help you do the transfer as much as they can. Explain each step before it happens.

Plan ahead. Know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there, and make sure the person you’re lifting also knows. Move everything out of the way, and make sure the brakes are engaged on any wheeled devices. Transfer him to even, stable surfaces.

Know the person’s condition. Check for catheters, tubes, drainage bags and other items that might need to transfer with the person. Ask the person if he likes being transferred one way more than another way.

If the person you’re transferring is using a wheelchair, be sure to stabilize it by securing the brakes. Remove the footrests and armrest on the side he’s being transferred toward.

Park the wheelchair as close as possible to the area where you will be transferring the person to or from. Park the wheelchair so that the person’s stronger side of their body is the side that the transfer will be done on.

Make sure you have enough space to make a safe transfer.

If he starts to fall, ease him down onto the nearest surface — a chair, the car or even the ground.  Don’t stretch to complete the intended transfer. You’re likely to lose your balance, strain your muscles, and injure both yourself and the person you’re transferring.

To prevent back injury to you, bend at the hips and knees, not at the waist, as you prepare to lift someone; then straighten at the hips and knees as you lift.

Keep a wide base of support by spreading your feet apart. If you’re transferring someone from one place to another, stagger your feet in a walking position, and shift your weight from front to back as you lift, while keeping the person as close to you as possible.

To avoid back injury: When turning, pivot on your feet or move them. Don’t twist at the waist. For added back support, consider wearing a safety belt like those used by workers who frequently lift and carry items on the job.

Always put the footrests and armrest back on the wheelchair in the correct position after you have transferred a patient into the wheelchair. If the person cannot move an arm or leg, move it into the correct position for them after a transfer.

If it’s Halloween, take off your face mask. You may scare the elder or yourself.


Transferring a Person Correctly

  • If it is possible, ask to ask someone to help you do a transfer. The person may be heavy, panicky, or unpredictable and may begin to fall while you are moving him. If you have another person with you, they can help you.
  • Always bend your knees while transferring. Move from your hips. Do not move people using your back. Straighten your hips and knees as you lift.
  • Place your feet as wide apart as your hips. Do not leave your feet in place and twist your body at the waist during a transfer. Pivot on your feet or stagger them while walking.
  • Keep your arms in close to your body rather than stretching them out during a transfer.
  • Keep your back curved rather than holding it straight. Do not bend your head forward during a transfer.
  • Never let the person you are moving hold or hug you around your neck while you are moving them.
  • Stand very close to the person while transferring them. Shift your weight from front to back while moving him.
  • Use your body’s momentum (the force gained by moving) to move the person.
  • If possible, wear a safety belt for your back.


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