Transfer Techniques

Do you Know Proper Transfer Techniques?

     When moving someone who has limited ability to help you, try the following recommendation collected from multiple videos and my personal experience. These transfer techniques work. 

  • Keep the person you are transferring close to your body. The further from you they are, the less control you have.
  • Lift with your legs and not your back when moving.
  • Keep your work area organized and think through how you want to do the transfer in your mind first.  
  • When turning, use the person’s body to guide the movement.
      • Bend their knees with feet flat on the bed.
      • Lean the bent knees in the direction of the move.
      • Cross the ankles or legs over each other and move them in the direction of the move. 
  • When preparing to stand, make sure that the feet are on a flat surface. Push down to push off. 
  • Use a gait belt in place of holding onto the person’s body or clothes.
  • When doing a transfer from bed to chair or chair to wheelchair, etc., keep the distance short.
  • When using a wheelchair, check to see that it’s locked and have the footrest raised. 
  • If the person you are moving starts to fall, help slide them to the floor.  Once on the floor, help them get into a crawling position by bringing their most stable knee forward to push up from that side using their knee and hand together. The support of a stable object like a chair or wall might also help.
 
     See videos below on transfer techniques showing how to move individuals correctly from bed to chair, chair to bed, etc.

Helping Someone Up After A Fall

     Note:  Falling and not being able to get up can be a very traumatic experience.  It can also be very difficult to help someone get up after they fall. I encourage you to watch the videos below entitled “Helping Someone Up After a Fall” and How to Get Up from the Floor MacGyver Style” which shows you how to help someone get up safely after a fall.

 Summary of Video’s suggestions:

  • Check for injuries and call 9-1-1 if there is any question whether you can safely lift them without assistance
  • If they are on their back, help them roll over to a crawling position
  • Once in a crawling position help guide them over to a piece of sturdy furniture to support them
  • Confirm the placement of their feet solidly underneath them in a good position to stand
  • While using the furniture as support, insert your arm under theirs and put your other hand on their back.  Firmly help lift them as they attempt to stand up.
  • Only release your hold on them once you know they have their balance.

Using Correct Transfer Techniques to move to a Wheelchair

  1. Remove leg rests and armrest on the side near person transferring.
  2. Angle wheelchair at 45o toward bed and lock wheels.
  3. Apply a gait belt and put the slide board in place.
  4. Feet shoulder distance apart, tummy tucked in, knees bent, come in close to person using a gait belt to lift the person. Slide person using belt along with the board.
  5. If they have a weak side, use your knees to pin their weak knee by holding their knee between your knees as you move.
  6. Lift with your thighs, turn with your body and move.
  7. Adjust position, remove transfer board, and gait belt.
  8. Re-attach armrest and leg rests to the wheelchair.
If at all possible, purchase or rent a device to assist you in lifting. 
 
Examples of equipment used to lift patients are available below in the videos.

Fall Prevention Strategy - Using a Gait Belt

     Take a close look at the picture just above this headline. Do you see that dark blue belt around the patient’s waist?  That belt is called a “gait belt.”  If you have never used a gait belt to help you steady your family member when moving them or helping them walk, I highly recommend trying one. 

 

Here’s How They Work

 

     You wrap the gait belt around the person’s waist like a regular belt leaving enough space to get at least two fingers under the strap.  The buckle faces outward toward the front. If you can’t wrap the strap around the waist (ex: a pump implanted on the waistline), then you can also wrap it around the chest just under the armpits. Be careful always not to let the belt get too tight.

 

     Tuck the extra belt into an edge or attach it to the gait belt in some way. I pen the excess strap of our belt to itself with a large safety pin and keep it pinned all the time.   

 

     Holding onto the belt is more stable than holding onto clothes.  Clothes shift with body movement and tear easier. The belt won’t rip, and it contains a lot a weight very stable. 

Helping Someone Walk Using a Gait Belt

     Whenever you are walking with someone who may be at risk for falling, don’t take chances. Once someone starts to fall, it’s tough to control their drop to the ground. What often happens is that their momentum pulls you along with them, and you both go down in a heap.  Instead of one of you getting hurt, you both might get hurt.  To prevent such an accident, try using a gait belt to help you have a stronger hold on the other person as you walk and plan your movements so that their strongest side always leads the way. 

 
Using a Gait Belt

      I’m a big fan of using a gait belt every time I must move Lynn from one position to another where lifting is required. I view the gait belt the same way I do a seat belt—the car doesn’t go into gear until the belt is securely in place. The advantages of holding onto a gait belt instead of the person make sense:

  • The belt stays in one place and doesn’t move around as clothing does. If you hold onto a person’s clothes, as the person moves, the clothes do as well, and you are not able to control their movements as precisely. Plus, clothing tears and stretches making it less reliable.
  • If the person starts to fall, their arms and legs crumple, leaving you with nothing to use to grab as a stronghold. Everything is a limp as a wet washrag. However, if you have a gait belt around them, you have a durable, secure device to use to hold them up and pull them toward you in a bear hug. Once you have them in a bear hug, you can let them slide down your body slowly to the floor in a controlled manner. Neither of you gets hurt that way.
Safety for Weakness on One Side

     If you are walking or moving someone who has weakness on one side, position their strong side so that it comes in contact with their destination first.  When you let the stronger side move into position first, you allow the person to establish a foundation before they try to move again. 

 
Taking a Walk with Someone Using a Gait Belt

     If the person is sitting in a chair and you need to help them out of the chair first. You want to use proper body mechanics to save strain on your back muscles every time you must move someone.

  1. Wrap the gait belt around the person’s waist, leaving enough room to be able to insert both hands underneath the belt comfortably.
  2. After applying the gait belt, position yourself close to the person so that you are facing each other. Grasp both sides of the belt with your hands using an underhand approach.
  3. With your knees slightly bent, position your feet in a wide stance. Rock back and forth slightly as you ask the person to assist you in pushing themselves off the bed/chair to stand as you help lift them to a standing position using the gait belt. 
  4. Let the person stand a minute to make sure they don’t get lightheaded.
  5. Once their head is clear, stand slightly behind them on the side where they are weakest. As you walk with them, place your hand underneath the gait belt along their back. Stay just enough behind that the person can use a handrail if they wish. If using a cane, remind them to move the cane and uninvolved leg forward together as one before they maneuver the weak side forward.   

     Videos demonstrating the above are available elsewhere on this page. 

Caregiver Marketplace Check out links to products recommended to help caregivers cope with the challenges of caregiving at home. Ideas are available on everything from positioning to self-help booksmobility devices, to skincare.