Mobility Aids: Protecting the health and safety of caregivers

Mobility is vital to the ability for elderly and disabled patients to feel a sense of independence, purpose and control. However, they often need the assistance of a caregiver to be able to do some of the most basic activities in the home. That is why caregivers are so important to ensuring the health and safety of patients that are unable to walk, get out of bed or use the bathroom properly on their own.

While there is a lot of discussion on how mobility aids can be used to ensure the health and safety of patients, there is less emphasis on just how this can help caregivers avoid injury and support them physically, so that they can safely take care of their charges.

Why is it important to focus on the health and safety of caregivers?

Often patients are unable to do vital activities by themselves, which means that they are reliant upon their caregivers to assist them. That means that caregivers need to take care of their physical wellbeing to be able to do their job. Sadly, this isn’t always the case, as assisting patients to transfer, ambulant or perform daily functions can be physically exhausting. In fact 32% of family caregivers who provide more than 20 hours of care per week report that they have suffered from physical strain from their effort to assist transfers from the bed or chair (Powell-Cope, Pippins & Young 2017).

What is the role of mobility aids in protecting the health and safety of caregivers?

While the main function of mobility aids is to ensure that mobility-impaired individuals can get from place to place safely, patient handling and mobility technology can also decrease the physical burden on staff and prevent injuries in caregivers (Powell-Cope 2014). While each patient’s needs are different, the most common mobility aids within the home include transfer boards, grab bars, bathtub transfer benches, shower chairs and raised toilet seats (Powell-Cope, Pippins & Young 2017).

Common mobility aids for the home

Transfer boards

Transfer boards are intended as a flat surface that can be used to bridge the gap between two surfaces, like a bed and wheelchair or wheelchair and bathtub. It allows mobility impaired patients to move between surfaces without using their legs and for caregivers to assist in the motion without the strain of having to pick them up (Powell-Cope, Pippins & Young 2017).

Grab Bars

Grab bars or rails are safety devices designed to enable a person to maintain balance and hold some of their weight while maneuvering. They are commonly found in showers, bathtubs and near toilets and allow patients to use them without having to grab onto their caregiver. Suction grab bars are not recommended because they may slip during use (Powell-Cope, Pippins & Young 2017).

Bathtub Transfer Benches

Bathtub transfer benches allow recipients to sit and move into the bathtub instead of requiring that they step over the edge, which can be dangerous for both them and their caregiver.

Shower Chairs

Shower chairs allow mobility impaired recipients to sit down in the shower, which can help relieve the need for caregivers to help them maintain their stability.

Raised Toilet Seats

Raised toilet seats with armrests can help older adults lower themselves into position without putting strain on their caregiver and the raised platform allows them to stand and sit easier.

Powell-Cope, G. 2014, ‘Effects of a national safe patient handling program on nursing injury incidence rates.’, Journal of Nursing Administration, vol. 44, no. 10.

Powell-Cope, G., Pippins, K.M. & Young, H.M. 2017, ‘Teaching Family Caregivers to Assist Safely with Mobility’, AJG, vol. 117, no. 12.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels