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Patient Transfer Guide for Caregivers - How to Move a Client

If you work as a carer or care for someone in your family, it’s important to know how to move people properly. Our daily movements of getting in and out of bed, chairs and on and off the toilet are known as transfers. This is where we transfer from one position to the next in order to progress our movement.

If you are giving help to someone with their transfers you should know the best way to help them. This is for 2 reasons:

  1. Make the transfer as safe and as easy as possible for them in order to reduce risk of injury or failed transfer.
  2. Make the transfer as safe and as easy for you in order to avoid injuring yourself.

Romedic Return Patient TransferSafety is such an important aspect for caregivers when helping to move someone. A poor handhold, positioning or simply not giving the right instructions can lead to a poor transfer and sometimes injury.

Being able to move someone with an efficient technique and low effort is another major factor for caregivers. We all know that any care based role is tiring and exhausting at the best of times. Moving our clients or patients with the best technique and / or equipment will help us to make the best possible transfers without over tiring yourself.

The Fundamentals of Transfers

Before considering techniques and equipment we may use for transfers, it’s important to always start with the basics and consider a good foundation before beginning a transfer.

  • Know your patient – you may be working with a family member or a long term client who you know very well. Alternatively, you could be working with someone who is new to you and you don’t know their physical condition very well. Take some time to get to know their physical history, any medical conditions they have that affect their transfers and ask people who do know them about their preferences.

  • The right environment – for anything to flourish and succeed in life, the right environment is key. Before moving and transferring patient’s you should consider is the area clear, is it safe to work in and think about the area you are transferring to. Making these checks on the environment could help prevent accidents during the movement.

  • Quality instructions – if you are doing a transfer on your own it is important to talk with the person you are moving to let them know what you will be doing and when you will be doing it. This sounds like really simple and obvious advice but ensuring you both know the plan helps to reduce risk and make the process easier. If there is more than one person involved in the transfer process, discuss the plan between you both and then talk with the patient. A great tip is to agree on keywords or phrases that will cue your movements such as “1,2,3 - lift”.

Transfers and What Equipment to Consider

For every transfer and every person you help to move, there is a different set of needs. Equipment may be necessary dependent on each person’s level of capability. To understand equipment and transfers better, let’s take a look through a few major movements and what could be used to assist to make it easier.

Sit to Stand 

Sit to Stand is a highly common movement used in everyday life and can be performed from a chair, bed or toilet. Different levels of capability will be able to manage this movement in different ways but if you require the assistance of a carer it is typical performed with a carer positioned at your side assisting the movement.

Hands should not be placed under arm pits to lift as this can cause injury. Instead hands should be placed around the waist and hips. The carer’s body weight should be lowered to a level that matches the person being moved and load should be shared equally between your knees and your back.

If a person needs help to stand – this can typically be provided with a transfer belt which has handles for carers to hold on to or even a frame placed in front which can be secured a carer giving them a fixed surface to push up on.

Bedding Changes / Bed Position Changes 

If you need to move your patient/client/family member in bed to help avoid things like pressure sores, improve their comfort and posture or the bedding needs changed, this can be done with the use of a slide boards and slide sheets if the person you are caring for needs to remain in bed. Consider the use of slide sheets which reduce friction. The Patslide is a popular product to assist with safe and easy patient transfers. 

When moving your person, a great technique is to log roll them. This involves placing your hands on to the hips and the shoulders with the assistance of someone else and rolling the person on to their side whilst the slide sheet is inserted underneath them. This motion is then replaced in the opposite direction in order to pull the sheet through so

Sitting Transfers

There can be many ways in which you transfer a patient in a sitting position and this will depend on their capability. Sitting transfers can be done from bed to seat, seat to bed and from wheelchair in to a car, to name a few.

If someone has poor capability in standing or with their core muscles then sitting transfers from a seat to bed may be best performed with a hoist. If the person has good upper limb strength and some lower limb strength then it may be a case of simply assisting them by guarding them closely whilst they perform the movement or giving them some close instruction. 

Equipment used in these situations to make transfers easier include slide boards which can be placed between seat to bed or seat to seat in order to reduce friction and allow an easy slide transfers. There are also swivel cushions for accessing vehicles which allow you to sit on the cushion then rotate easily in to the car. There are also a number of innovative products such as the Romedic Return to assist with sitting transfers. 

We hope that you found this guide to transfers helpful, it is just the basics but it may help you or someone you know. If you have any questions regarding equipment for transfers we are happy to advise, please Contact Us.

About the Author

Ross Taylor is a highly skilled and experienced physiotherapist with over 7 years experience in hospital settings, GP surgeries, occupational health and private practice.  

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