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Safely Assisting in and out of Chairs and Beds

Learn Easy Techniques to Help People Move
By: CaregiverZone

A move as basic as getting in and out of a chair can be difficult for a senior, depending on their age, flexibility, and strength. The height and stability of the chair or other sitting surface also plays a role in the successful transfer. A slightly raised seat is preferable to one that is low or deep. Following are the basic guidelines for safely assisting a senior in both standing and sitting.

Sitting-to-standing transfer
  • Scoot the person you are assisting toward the front edge of a chair, bench, or bed with his feet flat on the floor.

  • Make sure feet are positioned approximately shoulder width apart and slightly behind the knees.

  • Gently help shift the senior's weight forward (over the toes) while they push up with both hands on the armrests of the chair or off of the bench or bed.

Standing-to-sitting transfer
  • Before assisting a senior in sitting down on a surface, make sure he positions himself so the backs of his legs touch the edge of the chair, bench or other surface.

  • Have him reach back for the armrest of the chair, or for the surface of the bench (or a grab bar if available).

  • Seniors should then lower themselves slowly, making sure the hips are adequately bent for a soft landing.

Getting in and out of bed

Assisting a senior getting in and out of bed can be a challenging transfer. Completing it slowly and problem solving with the best technique will help ensure success. You may wish to invest in an electric bed or a wedge to place at the head of the bed to provide an incline and help facilitate transfers. The senior in your care will have an easier time transferring in or out of bed toward his stronger side.

There are numerous techniques dependent on the condition of the elderly person. Here are some of the more common techniques.

Log rolling
  • Make sure the person is positioned on his back near the edge of the bed (12 to 18 inches). Assist them in bending both knees up so the feet are flat on the bed.

  • With both knees up, the person will roll as a unit or "log" onto the side closest to the edge of the bed.

  • Bringing the legs down off the bed, the top arm helps push into the bed while the bottom arm bears the weight on the elbow and forearm.

  • Push up onto an extended arm and into a sitting position. Stand as described in the sitting-to-standing transfer above.

  • Reverse for lying down.

Trunk flexion
  • The success of this technique depends on abdominal strength, trunk and upper extremity flexibility.

  • With the senior positioned on his back, the trunk rotates to one side while flexing forward to position the elbows underneath.

  • With arms positioned behind and out to the side of the trunk, push up until arms are straight.

  • Walk the legs toward the edge of the bed.

  • As the legs are sliding over the edge of the bed, the arms push forward so that the senior is sitting at the edge of the bed with feet flat on the floor.

  • Follow instructions above for sitting-to-standing transfer.

Once out of a bed or chair the destination of the elderly person will often be the bathroom. As a caregiver you may wish to know the basics for safely assisting seniors in the bathroom.

General rules

Finally, there are a few general guidelines that apply when assisting in the completion of any transfer:

  • When assisting in the transfer of a senior never pull on his arms or under his shoulders.

  • Use a gait belt secured around his waist to assist him.

  • Explain each step of the transfer and allow the senior to complete it slowly.

  • Give physical assistance and verbal cues to the senior during the transfer.

  • Allow time for the senior to respond and follow through.

If you are having difficulty with transfers and mobility issues it is recommended that you consult a physical therapist or occupational therapist to evaluate your situation and provide treatment and recommendations.


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