By Wendy Johnstone
Caregiving often involves physically demanding tasks. It requires conscientious care for your loved one – and for your own health. Performing tasks in a way that minimizes stress on your body can help prevent injuring yourself and the person for whom you are caring.
Consulting with a specialist such as a rehabilitation specialist or physiotherapist is the best place to find expertise to support you in your caregiving experience and physical tasks. WorkSafeBC provides a comprehensive resource on health and safety information and resources for those who provide care. Visit www.worksafebc.com/en/health-safety/industries/health-care-social-services
One of the best suggestions I’ve heard from a physiotherapist to minimize the risk of injury: have the person you are caring for do as much as possible for themselves. Although it may take longer, it gives the person being cared for more independence and reduces the amount of bending, twisting and lifting being done by you.
Here are a few simple suggestions for proper body mechanics that can help you avoid injuries:
* Sit on a firm chair with a straight back. You should be balanced on your “sit bones.” If your chair does not offer lumbar support, make your own with a rolled-up towel or pillow.
* To ease your back when sitting for a long period of time, make use of a stool or ottoman. You can also perform pelvic tilting exercises to gently mobilize your lower back.
* To avoid slouching when performing crafts or reading, make use of pillows on your lap to bring your work closer to you without straining your arms or neck.
* For prolonged sitting or car rides, be sure to adjust your chair to suit you and take frequent breaks to prevent your back from seizing up.
* Lift with your legs, not with your back.
* When bending down to lift something, face the object you are lifting and bend your legs (i.e., your hips, knees and ankles) while keeping your back straight.
* When turning, rotate your entire body, not just your back.
* If you are unsure if you can lift an object, get someone to help you.
* There are many devices available to help carry or move heavy objects. If you need help using a device, ask someone who has experience to show you how to use it properly.
Pushing a wheelchair:
* Make sure handles are at a good height for you to push without bending forward.
* Keep your back straight.
* Your feet should be shoulder width apart for sturdiness while in the standing position.
* To manoeuvre a wheelchair forward or backward, keep your back straight and use your body weight.