Like nurses, caregivers can be more prone to injury or illness associated with caring for someone. Muscle strain from lifting a client, mental stress from various caregiving roles, and infection from contact with many patients across different healthcare settings can not only make the caregiving job harder but be detrimental to a caregiver’s overall health.
When it comes to avoiding common caregiving injuries, don’t miss these quick tips:
Practice Good Lifting Technique
The nature of caregiving doesn’t leave much room for waiting. If the person you’re caring for falls or needs help to get to the restroom, the burden of supporting their weight and helping them get up quickly or reposition falls on you.
Not only is lifting a human being more difficult because they are heavy, often unbalanced, and the body positioning is awkward, but lifting an entire person from a chair or bed can require even more exertion than normal (not to mention pushing wheelchairs with clients in them up steep ramps.)
Commonly, both formal and informal caregivers will experience muscle strain and injury to the back, shoulders, neck, and knees. This can manifest into a serious injury like rotator cuff tears, joint inflammation, and pinched nerves which make the caregiving job that much more challenging and increase safety risks for clients.
Caregivers can practice good lifting techniques by:
- Calling for help if there is any concern about the lift being unmanageable or dangerous
Utilizing transfer and lift aids like shower transfer chairs, swivel seat cushions, hoya lifts, and lifting belts
- Taking a minute to assess the lift before taking action, i.e. move clutter out of the way, reposition your client so they can help
- Having your client help with the lift by supporting themselves on a sturdy piece of furniture or with their mobility aid
- Lifting with the legs from a squat position, and keeping the head up and back in neutral (straight) position
Constant contact with clients in different health settings can make caregivers prone to infection or illness like colds or the flu. And any caregiver knows that clients who require care, especially seniors, are more susceptible to complications (like pneumonia) from even small infections that people accidentally pass to them.
Infection prevention is relatively simple. Caregivers should always remember to:
Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water before and after caring for a client in any way (or use hand sanitizer)
Wear gloves when completing tasks that deal with bodily fluids
Wear a face mask if a client is ill, sniffling, coughing, etc.
Avoid seeing clients when you are under the weather yourself
Take care of yourself with a healthy diet and routine exercise that bolsters your immune system
While caregiving is definitely fulfilling and provides you with a sense of purpose, it can also take its toll physically and mentally. More than most, caregivers should practice regular self-care that helps prevent injury, tends to emotional stress, and equips them with the tools and strategies to maintain optimum health while seeing to their client’s health.
If you are dealing with chronic back pain or nagging knee pain, see a doctor for a formal evaluation. They may recommend stretches and exercises to strengthen the muscles used in caregiving, prescribe a brace to stabilize the neck to minimize painful neck movement or to support the knee when lifting, as well as educate you on lifting technique.
If you are feeling stressed or burnt out, see to your own emotional wellness by speaking with a counselor, finding a hobby outside of caregiving that helps you relax (knitting, coloring, rock climbing, etc.), and addressing the caregiving tasks that are posing the greatest challenges. For example, if lifting has become overly strenuous, find out if your client’s doctor can write an order for a lifting aid or device.
To learn more about Aspen Senior Care or to get caregiving support, call our office today at 801-224-5910.
Author: Joe Fleming