Fragile! Handle with Care!
You may find yourself in role of a carer – whether it is planned or unexpected, on a temporary or permanent basis. A child or adult may need your help while recovering from an accident or illness, ageing parents may need your help in their daily lives or you may live with an adult or child who has a disability – as result of a lifelong condition, or a life changing illness or injury.
So you find yourself hands on – but are you prepared? We are going to share some top tips that will make a real difference to you AND the person you are caring for.
Be an enabler not a disabler
When you can see that someone is struggling with everyday tasks, like standing up and walking, washing and dressing, it is easy to step in and take over. But you know the saying ‘if you don’t use it you lose it’? Sometimes the best thing to do is to offer support to enable the person to do as much as they can for themselves so they can keep as much as possible of their independence skills. Not always easy, and often not as quick, but a better long term answer.
Always put in mind the feelings of the person being handled, and consider how would you like to be handled. The experience of being handled starts from the first communication and approach, so body language, vocal tone and approach all play a part. It is important to prepare people for what you are going to do, this encourages people to participate as much as they are able and builds trust and confidence. Remember you may be invading their space and privacy, even though it’s for good reason. I was taught always to use ‘paws’ not ‘claws’ – a open handed professional touch, not gripping on clothes, skin or joints which can cause discomfort and distrust.
Fragile – handle with care!
As a carer you are probably focusing on the wellbeing of the person you are caring for – remember it’s important to be look after your health/wellbeing too. How does this apply helping people to move (or manual handling)?
If the carer is in safe stance its safer for the person they are caring for too – you are less likely to injure yourself during a move, or to destabilize them or become unstable yourself, which could you both at risk of injury or a fall.
You may have been given or purchased some equipment to help you. It is really important that you understand what is designed to do and how to use the kit safely for all involved. It may also need servicing to keep it working correctly. There is no magic piece of kit that works for everybody or in every situation – it is rather a toolbox of different kit for different jobs, different environment, different people, different carers.
People can be very resistant to using aids like walking aids, crutches, sticks, frame, wheelchair, seeing them as outward signs of failure. But used properly they are not a loss of independence – but actually an opportunity to gain or maintain independence. We’re back to the use it or lose it concept here, and using an aid may make the difference to being able to mobilize with confidence, and maintain muscle strength and function.
Pictures speak a thousand words, so we’ve also made some short video clips to show you what we mean. We’ve looked at using crutches and sticks the right and wrong way. from how to walk correctly, measure the crutch to the right height, ascending and descending stairs. The importance of a stable position when handling. Assisting someone to stand and walk. How to assist someone to get up from the floor, after a fall for example.
So to summarise:
- Put yourself in the other people’s shoes, and do as you would be done by.
- Know (and work within) your limitations at any point in time – it will vary.
- Promote independence wherever you can
- Break what you are doing into easy steps, don’t rush or man handle
- If you are using equipment – get the right kit, get trained and always check it’s fit for use.
- As a carer keep yourself safe – doing that, you keep the person you are caring for safe too.
Co written by
Stephanie Smith – Director and Lead Physio at Pea Green Physio & Alison Thomson – The Safety Elf