Combating the Physical Demands of Caregiving
Caregiving is such a rewarding job, but it takes a special kind of devotion and stamina to be able to overcome the daily challenges of the job. Let's talk about the physical demands of caregiving. Which of these below do you consider most tiring?
1. Lifting a patient – helping them get up from the bed and transfer to a wheelchair or helping them back to bed
2. Reaching above the shoulders, below the waist, or in the far front
3. Twisting and turning
4. Bending from the waist to perform a procedure
5. Carrying supplies and equipment
6. Walking and running long distances
7. Prolonged standing
8. Pushing or pulling weights such as the patient or equipment
9. Supporting patients as they stand, walk, or transfer
10. Climbing stairs
11. Going about your shift with minimal or interrupted breaks
How well do you cope with this strenuous work?
Patients who receive long-term care and support require the most physically demanding assistance. This scenario is where caregivers come into the picture - and not without consequences.
According to phinational.org, 114 personal care aides and 116 home health aides get injured for every 10,000 workers. The most common cause of their injuries are sprains, strains, tears, soreness, and pain, which they usually get from lifting and repositioning their patients.
What you should do as a caregiver to combat physical stress
1. The basics: proper nutrition, adequate rest, and hydration.
So we start from the basics because, without these three, all other techniques will not be of much help. Food, water, and sleep nourish, hydrate, and reset the body, respectively. This is taking care of your body at the cellular level, and it is a must.
2. Use proper body mechanics.
Practicing proper body mechanics is using the correct posture, bodily alignment, balance, and movements to bend, carry, lift, and move weights safely.
Firstly, for this technique to be successful, you'd need comfortable shoes, so invest in a good pair. General rules for proper body mechanics are:
a. Stand or bend with your feet apart because this stance gives you steady balance and better support.
b. Move as a unit. If you need to reach to your far right, face right instead of twisting to that side.
c. Move the weight to be carried closer to your body so that you don't have to bend forward and strain your back.
d. Push instead of pull because pushing involves fewer muscles, and you get a good view of where you're going as well.
e. Bend from the knees instead of the waist. Bending forward to lift something may cause muscle strains and spine injuries.
f. Raise the bed to your hip level when performing patient care procedures. This technique prevents you from bending over too low and having a backache.
g. An awkward position is unsafe, so always ensure correct body alignment before lifting or moving something heavy.
3. Be organized.
Imagine running from the stockroom to the farthest room in the hallway, only to remember that you've forgotten to get a necessary item. You have to go back to retrieve it, which means you’ve just wasted energy on an additional task. Create a checklist of tasks and needed supplies to save you unnecessary trips.
4. Use equipment and other devices.
You don’t have to work hard (and get injured!) when you can work smart. Instead of repeatedly carrying supplies to and from the stockroom, use a cart or trolley to restock patient supplies. Arrange the items wherein the heaviest ones are at your hip level.
Another example is the use of a gait belt for moving or transferring a patient. A gait belt can provide balance to both you and your patient, making transfers safer. When lifting obese patients, use a lifter, or ask a co-worker for help.
5. Stretching exercises.
Caregiving involves a lot of muscle work. Just like a strenuous workout, you need to do warmups and cooldowns. Stretching exercises rev up your circulation and prepares your muscles for heavier workloads, and therefore, prevents sprains and strains.
6. Warm soaks.
Overworked muscles need to relax, and one of the most practical ways to do this is to spend some quiet time in a tub of warm water.
The physical demands of caregiving can become overwhelming and cause burnout in the process. However, you can try the above workarounds and practice them consistently until they become a part of your working habits.