ElderCare Online (ec-online.net) publishes an online newsletter called "The Caregiver's Beacon." There are several good articles in the latest issue, including this one on caregivers preventing back pain and strain.
Caregiver's Beacon, November 2010 issuehttp://www.ec-online.net/Knowledge/News ... 11110.html
Article on back pain/strainhttp://www.ec-online.net/Knowledge/Arti ... kpain.html
Oh, My Aching Back! Preventing Back Pain and Strain
by Stephanie Rogers
Caregiver's Beacon Newsletter, November 2010
Caring for someone with limited - or no - mobility can be a huge pain. In the back. A literal labor of love. Are any of these activities part of your daily care "regimen" for your loved one?
* Turning them in bed
* Repositioning them in bed e.g., move them forward, up, lay them down
* Lowering them onto and lift them off of the toilet
* Lowering them into and lift them out of the bathtub
* Lowering them into and lift them out of the wheelchair
* Sitting them into, lifting them out of a car
If so, you are likely putting a tremendous strain on your neck, shoulders and particularly your back - but we probably didnât need to tell you that. The back strain experienced by caregivers is accepted as an inevitable part of the job.
You may not want to know this, but back pain as a result of caregiving causes serious enough problems that professional caregivers get workers compensation for the back strain they experience as a result of their job. A job which likely includes daily activities very similar to yours.
You may also not want to hear that recommended treatment for back strain is several hours worth of rest on a firm surface. People with back strain are also instructed not to lift anything heavy. Physical therapy, x-rays and medications are also advised.
For many caregivers, most of the suggested treatments listed above are not an option. So what can be done to reduce the strain on your back? First of all, you may want to have a look at how your house is arranged to ensure everything is set up for you to maneuver your care recipient as easily as possible.
* The lower the bed, the more you have to bend over from the hips to reach the person you are helping, the more chances for strain. In fact, bending over and lifting from this position is one of biggest causes of back strain.
* Can you raise the bed to reduce the distance between you and your care recipient? (Putting the legs of the bed on solid blocks - make sure theyâre wider than the bed legs - is a cheap and easy way to get some more height.)
* If you attach moveable rails to the bed, will your care recipient be able to use the aid to move themselves in bed?
* Is the space around the bed where you maneuver your care recipient cramped? Trying to lift or lower someone in a cramped space will increase your back strain. Is there any way you can make more space around the bed? For example, rearranging the furniture or taking it out of the room altogether?
* Is the doorway big enough to get a wheelchair or walker through? If not you may want to consider having them widened. Remember, the less work you have to do the easier it will be on your back.
* If your care recipient has very limited to no mobility you may want to look into getting a mechanical lift. Besides, your insurance company may cover the cost of the lift.
* Are there hand rails by the toilet so that your care recipient can help to maneuver themselves?
* Do you have a toilet seat raiser? Remember, the less distance between your care recipient and the place they need to be helped to, the better it will be for you. Also a raised seat may mean your care recipient can move themselves.
* Bathtubs and showers have slippery bottoms, do you have some adhesive strips in the bath/shower to prevent slipping? There are many types of adhesives designed specifically for this purpose.
* Hand rails in the bath can help your care recipient balance or support themselves - so can bath seats which keep your care recipient higher up in the tub so you donât have to lower them all the way down. Stools will also work for baths or showers, particularly if your care recipient has difficulty standing up.
* Since the bathroom floor can also be slippery, you may want to consider wearing "water socks" - which have rubber soles - or pool "shoes". You definitely donât want to slip while youâre helping your care recipient. You may also want to consider this kind of footwear for your care recipient to further decrease their chances of slipping and falling.
* Are hallways and other "pathways" in the house easy to maneuver? Are electrical cords, telephone cords or throw rugs out of the way or taped down?
General Tips to Keep in Mind
* See if your care recipient can help you with the process of moving, lifting or lowering. The support bars mentioned earlier may help them. Also, a raised bed may make it easier for them to transfer themselves into bed.
* You may want to think about the way in which youâre lifting your care recipient. There is a right way and a wrong way to lift things.
* Generally speaking you want to use the strong muscles of your legs and your stomach muscles rather than your back when lifting.
* When moving someone, try not to lift them under the armpits - this will not only put strain on you but it can also injure your care recipient.
* Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, one foot slightly behind the other, and bend your knees. This is a very stable position that will allow you to support weight without losing your balance.
* You also want to keep the person you're lifting as close to you as you can; it's much easier to lift things when they're held closer to your body. Lifting with extended or stiff arms is another factor that contributes strongly to back strain - the further away you are from what youâre lifting, the greater the strain.
* Remember to keep your back straight and use your legs to "do" the lifting. Try not to twist your body - this will put additional strain on your back - turn or pivot your feet instead.
* You may want to talk to your doctor to see if you can get a physical therapist to come and advise you on lifting techniques.
* Exercising regularly will help to strengthen your muscles. The stronger your muscles - particularly the stomach, leg and shoulder muscles - the less risk of strain on your back.
* If you do really hurt your back, pain-killers like Tylenol, Aspirin or ibuprofen can help to ease the pain. Muscle relaxants like Robaxisal may also be of some use but be careful - they can cause drowsiness. You should also let your doctor know if you are taking muscle relaxants because they can interact with other medications. A hot bath will also help to relax you and increase the blood flow in your back which will promote faster healing.
Sources: [see the online article to get these links]
"Back Strain".SpineSolver.com. http://www.spinesolver.com/back_strain.htm
"Back Strain Treatment." allHealth.com.
"Strategies to reduce the risk of back strain in nursing homes." WorkSafe Western Australia.