How to Lift Patients: Wheel Chair Guide

Updated April 17, 2017

You need to practice proper technique when transferring an individual from a wheelchair to a different chair, a bed or the toilet for the safety not only of the patient, but the caregiver. While there are a number of mechanical lifting aides that can help caregivers perform such tasks, they can cost money and many home-based caregivers can't afford them. Using proper lifting and transfer techniques will ensure a smooth transfer--comfortable and safe for the patient and his caregiver--regardless of scenario.

Situate the wheelchair closest to the stable chair, bed or location to which you are transferring the patient. For example, if you're transferring the patient to a toilet, push the wheelchair into the bathroom so the patient faces you.

Place the wheelchair as close to the transfer object as possible. Using the toilet for an example, place the wheelchair so that the patient's feet sit as close to the centre of the base of the toilet as possible.

Lock the wheels of the wheelchair in place. This prevents the wheelchair from sliding or moving during the transfer. Lift the patient's feet from the footrests and lift them out of the way.

Encourage the patient to help lift his body weight by placing his hands on each of the armrests of the wheelchair and pushing upward when you give the signal. You may use a gait belt if desired, or carefully wrap your arms around the patient's chest. Never pull a person from a wheelchair by his arms, especially if he's older. This may dislocate his wrist, elbow or shoulder joint or cause injury.

Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder distance apart for stability. If the toilet is to your right, place your left foot between the patient's feet so that you can pivot with your right foot as you're lifting the patient from the wheelchair and placing him on the toilet. Take small steps to turn your body to position the patient, trying not to lift and twist your lower back at the same time. If the toilet sits to your left, you'll place your right foot between his feet and pivot on your left foot.

Agree on a signal so that the patient knows when you're going to lift. Bend your knees while wrapping your arms around the patient's chest, or using the gait belt, then lift his body up and forward, using the muscles of your thighs, hips and buttocks. Pull in your abdominal muscles for additional back support.

Pivot on your main weight-bearing foot and then turn your body in small steps until the back of the patient's legs touch the bed, other chair or toilet seat. Gently lower the patient to the chair, bed or toilet.

Repeat the process in reverse for returning the patient to the wheelchair.

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About the Author

Denise Stern is an experienced freelance writer and editor. She has written professionally for more than seven years. Stern regularly provides content for health-related and elder-care websites and has an associate and specialized business degree in health information management and technology.