Transferring While Paralyzed: Safety Tips for Caregivers

May 13, 2016 | 2:35 pm | By Pants Up Easy


When you move a person into or out of a wheelchair, transfer aids can be helpful. Use a gait belt, sliding board, or mechanical lift to help move a person. These aids not only make it safer for the person you are moving, but also make it easier and safer for you. 

Prior to the Wheelchair Transfer:

  1. Assess the task at hand. Determine if you will need an extra person to help with the transfer. The person you are about to move may be heavier than your own self can handle, and could fall while you are moving them.
  2. Lock wheels in place before moving the patient. This could consist of either the bed wheels (if in hospital bed) or wheelchair wheels. See our blog on ‘wheelchair stability’ for more information on this topic.
  3. Raise the head of the bed, and then lower bed to the most well positioned level as possible.
  4. Inspect your path for any obstacles that might impede or hamper the transport.
  5. Make sure you are wearing non-skid shoes.
  6. If someone is helping you, communicate with clear direction on how you plan to transfer the patient.
  7. Make sure armrests/footrests are moved out of the way prior to transfer.
  8. If you have a gait belt, fasten securely around the person’s waist. This will help you get a good grip during the transfer. Here is a YouTube video of a gait belt transfer from bed to wheelchair: click here.    

The Wheelchair Transfer:

  1. Position wheelchair as close as possible to the bed or area where you plan to perform transfer.wheelchair-assistance-5-things-caregivers-should-know.jpg
  2. Stand very close to the person while you transfer him.
  3. Make sure patient’s feet are flat on floor.
  4. Make sure you are using good body mechanics to transfer.
  5. Bend your knees. Move from your hips. Make sure you are moving with your core muscles. Do not move people using your back. Do not leave your feet in place and twist your body at the waist during a transfer.
  6. Keep your arms close to your body rather than stretching them out during a transfer. Place your feet as wide apart as your hips.
  7. Keep your back curved rather than holding it straight.
  8. Do not bend your head forward during a transfer.
  9. Do not let the patient hold or hug your neck while you are moving them.
  10. Use your body’s momentum to move the person.
  11. Push, instead of pull.

Note of caution: If the patient begins to fall during transport, bend your knees and lower them slowly to a safe surface and then call for help. Do NOT grab or hold on to their clothing in an attempt to stop them from falling.

If a sliding board is being used, place gait belt around the person’s hips and buttocks. Then place one end of the sliding board under his buttocks.

Put one of your knees between the person’s knees. Hold the gait belt or its handles. Slowly slide the patient across the board to the wheelchair. Ask the person to help by pushing his palms on the board and moving towards the wheelchair. Remove the board once the person is seated in the wheelchair.

If mechanical lift equipment is used, it will either be electric or hand-powered; and attached to the floor, wall, or ceiling. A lift can be used for a person who cannot stand by himself, or for someone who is too heavy to be manually lifted. This equipment is typically used with a person who is unable to help with the move.

Roll the person onto his side. Slide the sling underneath him. Roll the person onto his other side and spread the sling evenly under him. 

Secure the sling’s attachments to the lift. By pumping, or turning it on, slowly hoist the person while (making sure they keep still as they are being lifted). Position until the person is over the wheelchair, and slowly move person into the chair.

Unhook the attachments and remove the sling if it is not going to be used again.

Do the same to move the person from wheelchair to another location.


New Wheelchair Users: 

If you are a new wheelchair user, take a look at our blog on choosing the right occupational therapist. There are many people and facilities and caregivers who can help a wheelchair user maintain an independent and gratifying life. Take a look at how Pants Up Easy can also vastly improve your life as a wheelchair user with our Free EBook offer below.


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