Safely Transferring Patients Who Require Maximum Assistance
On osha.gov, you will find that one major source of injury to healthcare workers, whether in a facility or at home, is musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). These injuries are due in large part to overexertion related to repeated manual patient handling activities, often involving heavy manual lifting associated with transferring, and repositioning patients and working in extremely awkward postures.
Some examples of patient handling tasks that may be identified as high-risk include:
- transferring from toilet to chair,
- transferring from chair to bed,
- transferring from bathtub to chair,
- repositioning from side to side in bed,
- repositioning a patient in a chair,
- lifting a patient in bed,
- making a bed with a patient in it.
Family members or healthcare professionals who are taking care of patients at home need to know that there is equipment for the home that allows a caregiver to safely transfer a client who requires maximum assistance. Given the risks to both patient and caregiver, it is often essential to rely on patient transfer and lifting devices to make patient handling and movement safe. At DTN Home Care, we often use equipment like Easy Stands and Hoyer Lifts. Medicare will often cover the cost to rent this equipment, if there is medical necessity.*
A professional assessment of hazards in the home healthcare setting, the selection and use of the appropriate patient lifting equipment and devices, and a review of best-practices for safe patient handling are critical for the health and safety of everyone involved. The use of assistive patient handling equipment and devices is beneficial not only for healthcare staff, but also for patients. Explaining planned lifting procedures to patients prior to lifting and enlisting their cooperation can increase patient safety and comfort, and enhance their sense of dignity.
A CDC report provides a long list of benefits to a safe patient lifting program that includes mechanical lifting equipment and the proper training in its use:
Benefits for Clients, Loved Ones, Patients
- Improved quality of care
- Greater comfort while being moved
- Improved resident satisfaction
- Reduced risk of falls, being dropped, friction burns, dislocated shoulders
- Reduced skin tears and bruises
- Greater dignity
Benefits for Caregivers
- Reduced risk of injury
- Improved job satisfaction
- Increased morale
- More energy at the end of the work shift
- Less pain and muscle fatigue on a daily basis
Home medical devices have come a long way. Supplies can be delivered to your home and administered by yourself, a family member or a home care aide. Adding health care equipment to the home can be both liberating and frustrating. On the one hand, you have assistive devices to help with your mobility issues and on the other, that equipment may get in the way occasionally. Finding the right equipment can be extremely important. You need to find a device that can do the job safely and effectively. If a device is inexpensive, but difficult to use, it may not be the right piece of equipment for home care. Based on your needs of the needs of your patient/love one, here are some common devices you might want to consider:
- Sit-to-stand transfer devices are used for patients who have some upper body strength and ability to support their own weight. The equipment allows a patient to move from a chair or toilet to the bed. They use straps, vests, or belts (as opposed to slings) to make the transition possible.
- Patient lifts & slings are used to move a person over a short distance. The lift can be electric or hand-powered. It can be attached to the floor, wall, or ceiling, or you may be able to move it from place to place. A lift can be used for a person who cannot stand up by himself or for a person who is too heavy to be lifted easily, or for a person who is unable to help with the move.
- Gait or Transfer Belt: A gait or transfer belt is a device that is placed around the person’s waist or lower body. It may be used to help move a person to and from a wheelchair. It is used for a person who can stand but needs help getting up from a sitting position.
- Lateral transfer devices are used for moving patients from a bed to a stretcher or table while lying down. One device uses an air mattress to glide the patient between two surfaces.
- Powered transport carts and tugs are used to move patients long distances or on carpeted hallways.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us, “Evidence-based research has shown that safe patient handling….can significantly reduce overexertion injuries by replacing manual patient handling with safer methods guided by the principles of “Ergonomics.” …In the case of patient handling, it involves the use of mechanical equipment and safety procedures to lift and move patients so that health care workers can avoid using manual exertions and thereby reduce their risk of injury. At the same time, patient handling ergonomics seeks to maximize the safety and comfort of patients during handling.”
Safe lifting programs that incorporate mechanical lifting equipment can protect workers from injury, and improve the quality of care delivered to patients. Two local businesses where you can purchase or rent lifts and other transfer equipment are:
- Sanford Healthcare Accessories – http://www.healthcareaccessories.com/searchresults.htm?searchProducts=patient+lifts
- Great Plains Rehab – https://www.st.alexius.org/services/medical-equipment/home-medical-equipment