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Empowering Caregivers: Mastering Mobility Techniques for Your Loved One's Health

As a family caregiver, you play an invaluable role in your loved one’s health outcomes. Almost no caregiver receives training before leaping into this role. But every caregiver will be expected to handle something they have never done before at some point along this journey. Some of these tasks are simple, others incredibly nuanced. In this article, we hope to shed light on some of the common tasks family caregivers are expected to perform and offer practical tips and advice to get you through them the first time. This article focuses specifically on mobility: how to assist your loved one through their day and move around safely.

The Role of Family Caregiver

Family caregivers play a crucial, yet often overlooked role in the United States’ medical system. These caregivers provide critical support (outside of official medical facilities), without which, much of our medical system norms would crumble. Family caregivers are often the link that keeps our aging and ailing community members out of full-time care facilities and able to safely age at home (as so many of them would prefer).

At the core of this role lies a myriad of responsibilities, often including aiding loved ones with tasks like mobility. If your loved one can't safely move about their living quarters, it quickly becomes an unsafe and inhospitable environment. So you make that connection for them, allowing them to live a safer and more comfortable existence. But that role can be a heavy weight to bear – especially if you’re not sure what you’re doing. So let’s try to ease that burden a bit together.

Mobility and Transfer Tasks

As we've already touched on, maintaining your loved one(s) mobility is fundamental to their overall health and well-being. If you find yourself frequently in a situation where you need to assist them in moving from one place to another or performing daily activities, it's important to learn and understand proper mobility techniques. Doing so can help prevent injury to both you and the loved one in your care.

Lifting and Positioning: Safety First

If you've ever heard someone say that you need to lift with your legs instead of your back, this advice is never more true than when lifting a human being. When lifting a box, there are a lot fewer variables. It has a steady shape and weight. Your main concern, in this instance, is your grip.

Your loved one, on the other hand, is less predictable. They may unintentionally fight against you, flail, jolt, kick, or feel like dead weight. These variables increase the risk and importance of proper technique. Here are some simple steps to follow:

  • Step 1: Establish a Clear Path to the Destination. Before you make any moves toward helping your loved one up, it's important to establish a clear path to the destination. Whether they need help moving from the bed to the toilet, from the sofa to a wheelchair, or down the front steps to the garden, remove any obstacles that may stand in your way or create a tripping hazard.

  • Step 2: Firmly Plant Your Legs. Next, it's important to focus on your positioning. Make sure you avoid lifting with your back, which means you should avoid leaning over as much as you can. Create a wide base by spreading your legs far enough apart to give you good leverage.

  • Step 3: Consider Your Loved One’s Pain Areas. Finally, it's important to be aware of any pain points from your loved one at all times. Keep a mental note of areas where there may be incisions, drains, connections, etc. that may make this process uncomfortable.

The American Cancer Society has a video that shows these tips in action you can watch here:

Handling these tasks when you don’t feel safe or comfortable doing so is a risk to both you and your loved one – a risk that is not worth taking. It’s essential to note that if you feel uncomfortable or unable to assist with lifting or moving your loved one, it’s important to ask for help. You can talk to your loved one(s)’ medical team for specific advice related to their condition.

Mobility Aids

Using assistive devices can make a huge difference in both your ability to help your loved one and their ability to move around. These devices can include things like:

  • Transfer belts

  • Walkers

  • Scooters

  • Canes

  • Wheelchairs

  • Etc.

These tools make it much easier for you as a caregiver to safely move your loved one in certain situations. Please work with your loved one’s medical team, or a physical therapist to determine which assistive devices are most appropriate for your loved one. You can also request training on how to use them effectively!

Closing Thoughts: Helping Your Loved One with Mobility as a Caregiver

As a family caregiver, there are a lot of tasks that fall on your shoulders. Tasks you may not feel properly equipped to handle on your own. The good news is that you're not alone.

Even if no one in your personal life can relate, there are millions of family caregivers in the United States helping loved ones with various ailments, injuries, and aging.

There are also thousands of support groups you can access in person or online to find others in situations just like yours or who have experience in such situations that they can offer. At the California Caregiver Resource Center of Orange County, we help Orange County caregivers connect to the people and resources they need in the area. Please reach out if we can be of service to you or someone you know.

Further Reading: 4 Fantastic Books for Caregivers: Our Reading Recommendations

Anyone who has spent any amount of time caring for an elderly relative or friend knows that it can be both a challenging and rewarding experience. Caring for an elderly or ailing loved one can often be a 24/7 job, and it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself. One way to make sure that you are staying healthy both mentally and physically is to make time for reading.


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