Protect Your Back While Caregiving
Caring for an aging loved one is a great privilege and honor. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA), there are approximately 34.2 million Americans who are providing care for someone over the age of 50. While caring for an older adult is a great privilege, it can also contribute to back pain or back injuries. Caregivers often neglect their own safety in order to ensure the safety of the other person. Certain aspects of caregiving, such as providing care in tight spaces or having to transfer someone in and out of vehicles can cause harm to the musculoskeletal system.
Most family caregivers aren’t aware of the potential risks for injury when they help an aging family member. They don’t receive proper body mechanic training, nor do they think about what their body is doing in the midst of a caregiving task. If you are a family caregiver, know that there are ways you can prevent back pain and injury.
Lift With Your Legs
Most family caregivers are guilty of lifting with their arms, which means that they are often bending over the person. This puts strain on the back. Instead, lift with your legs. Lifting with your legs means you bend your knees to pick up the person. In this position, your back is straight instead of bent. Create a stable base with your legs by placing your feet shoulder-width apart. Then, squat down until you are level with the person, using your legs to stand up and keep your back straight.
Keep the Person Close to You
Another tip to protect your back is to keep the person you are lifting or transferring close to you. This might seem counterintuitive but keeping someone as close to you as possible uses less energy and decreases the load on your arms and spine. If you need to transfer or lift someone, ask them to first scoot to the edge of their seat and lean forward. Squat in front of them and have them take hold of your forearms. Keep them as close to you as possible and stand together. Then lift with your legs as the other person follows suite.
Exercise Your Core
Caregivers can also protect their back by strengthening their core. Your core is more than just the abdominal muscles in the front of the body. Your core consists of all the muscles found beneath the neck and above the thighs and wraps around the midsection of the body. Exercising your core muscles helps to strengthen your spine, while improving your posture and balance. Include core strengthening exercises in your fitness routine in order to protect your back while caregiving. Talk with your primary care physician about which core exercises are best for you.
Many family caregivers try to do too much in one visit. It’s understandable, but a back injury not only means that your loved one is without care and support, but it could potentially mean that you’re unable to do the physical activities you enjoy. Protect your back by taking breaks. Pause between transfers, rest your back after assisting with bathing, and keep your to-do list minimal. If you feel any strain or pain, stop as soon as possible and return to the task after you’ve given yourself time to rest and recover.
If you are a family caregiver and need a break, know that Visiting Angels Punta Gorda is here for you. In addition to our senior home care services, we offer respite care for family caregivers who need assistance. While you take care of yourself, our compassionate caregivers will assist your aging loved one with the help they need. This means that you can have peace of mind and enjoy a guilt-free break. To learn more about our respite care, please contact us today by calling 941-347-8288 Charlotte County or 239-226-1620 Lee County.