Dementia fall prevention includes learning to properly transfer your family member.
Transferring, as one of the ADLs (activities of daily living) is:
- The act of getting up.
- Or moving from one place of sitting to another.
- Or from lying to a sitting position.
Common points of transfer are from the bed to a wheelchair. Or wheelchair to bed. Moving from chair to toilet. Or toilet to chair. Moving from the floor to a chair (after a person falls), and from one chair to another.
Independence with transferring becomes more difficult as dementia progresses. Your family member loses muscular coordination. The body slows and becomes weaker. They become increasingly unstable. They become more likely to lose their balance and fall.
Your family member will need personal help. Particularly in the middle and late stages of dementia.
Dementia Fall Prevention: Tips and body mechanics
These tips are good to remember. They will assist you to make the most of transferring with the least amount of worry and physical stress:
- Observe for falls. The likelihood for falls and need for help with transferring. This increases in later dementia stages
- Be gentle during transferring. The skin of elderly people is often quite fragile and tears easily
- Use a gait belt or other assistive device as needed
- A Hoyer lift can be used to help transfer a large person... or those fully bedbound (commonly used in long-term care settings)
More on dementia fall prevention...
Transfers for a Wheelchair
Good body mechanics can cut the risk of injury to yourself or your family member:
- Hold your family member close to you. This is to keep the center of gravity close, lowering the strain on your lower back
- Keep your feet at least shoulder width apart. A wide base of support is far more stable than a stance that keeps your feet close together
- Use your stronger muscle groups to lift (legs, arms, and shoulders)
- It is not possible to keep perfectly straight, when squatting or stooping. Be conscious of your body position. Keep your back as straight as you can, using your stronger thigh muscles (quadriceps) to raise up
- When arising from a stooped or squatting position... first take a few deep breaths, leaning your head forward (helps keep you from getting dizzy)
- Do not underestimate the effort needed to transfer
- Make eye contact with your family member. Tell your family member what you plan to do. And how they may be able to help. Speak slowly, using one word commands.
- Don’t rush the transfer and allow your family member to help, if practical (helps prevent injury)
- Get help from others as needed
Transferring can be one of the most physically challenging of all the activities of daily living. This is true for both you and the family member with dementia.
The most important thing to remember about successful transferring bears repeating. Go slow and carefully.
Back injury is the most common caregiver injury. This is due to tugging, pulling, lifting, and other types of physical exertion.
Dementia fall prevention starts in the early stages of dementia. As with most ADLs, transferring is usually not an issue in the beginning stages of dementia.
Be concerned when your family member has increasing falls increasing confusion. Or is becoming physically weaker. Using proper body mechanics techniques will help save your back . And your family member from injury.
How to Help Someone Up After a Fall
I have many primary caregivers work very hard to keep their family members at home. When falls start to occur, there are times when you may be alone and need help.
Never hesitate to call for help.
There are many first responders that are used to these types of calls.
Remember, if you hurt your back, you will not be able to continue to provide care at home. Get help and take care of yourself as well.