Caregiving can be a tough job! Whether you are a loved one or a hired professional, supporting someone through their activities of daily life is an important but challenging role. Here are some suggestions to help you work toward a healthy life balance and positive movement experiences as you carry out your caregiving tasks.
Life Tips for Caregivers
Caring for another person can be stressful. Here are some tips for taking care of yourself while you take care of someone else.
Pencil in personal time. Just a few moments each day to read, walk, soak in the tub, or any other activity you enjoy in your personal time can help you avoid burnout.
Be active. Exercise relieves stress and gives you energy. A 10 minute walk can boost your energy.
Eat well. Healthy, nutritious food gives you energy for caregiving.
Accept help. Allow someone to support you. It makes both of you feel good. Ask for help when you need it.
Laugh. It relieves stress and releases endorphins.
Deep breathing. Try deep breathing techniques to relieve stress. For example: breathe in slowly through your nose, holding it for a few seconds, and then slowly exhale. Repeat this five times.
Strategies for Moving Someone Safely
Physically supporting someone while they move from their bed to a chair or a standing position can put pressure on your joints and cause a pain response. Your body is capable of supporting the added weight, but here are some strategies to empower your body to handle the added stress.
Standing up from sitting or lying down:
If the person is in bed, help them into a seated position at the edge of the bed.
Position them with their feet on the ground to provide stable support. While they are seated, place your arms around the person’s waist so that you can support them. If the person wants to hold onto something for support, have them place an arm around your waist or shoulders, or use a gait belt that you can purchase at a drugstore or online stores.
Place your feet shoulder-width apart with one foot slightly in front of the other on the floor before standing up to have a good base for support.
Have the person rock forward three times to build momentum, counting out loud to three.
On the count of three, push into your heels and squeeze your buttocks as you push your hips forward to stand up.
Keep the person close to your body and take small steps as you move. If you need to rotate the person, take small steps while turning.
Lowering to a seated position:
Place your feet shoulder-width apart with one foot slightly in front of the other with one or both arms around the person’s waist for support.
Their hands can be placed on your elbows or upper arms, or you can have them cross their arms in front of their body without holding onto you.
Instruct the person to slowly sit down, reaching one of their hands back to control their descent (if possible), while you push your hips back and bend at your knees to lower them into the chair.
A lightweight metal frame walker with rails that can be gripped by the person you’re caring for can help to support their body weight during transfer and while rising and sitting.
Exercises for Carrying and Lifting
Caregiving involves a lot of carrying and lifting. A common myth is that lifting is inherently bad for you. Recent evidence has challenged the idea that we should avoid lifting with our backs. Even if you experience pain or flare ups, lifting is almost always safe. But there are bodyweight exercises that can help you build resilience for carrying and lifting when caregiving:
While seated or standing, raise one foot slightly off the ground and hold it in place.
Rotate your ankle and create big circles with your toes.
Perform this motion five times in a row in one direction, then reverse the direction and perform another five times.
Complete five rotations in each direction for each foot.
Seated Straight Leg Raise
Sit toward the front edge of a chair.
Extend one leg out with your knee straightened and your heel resting on the floor.
Raise your leg while keeping your knee in the straightened position. Slowly lower your leg back to the floor.
Perform five repetitions, then switch legs and repeat.
Seated Postural Strength
While sitting, raise one arm up with your elbow bent to 90 degrees.
Draw your shoulder blade back and down.
Perform 10 times in a row, then switch arms and perform another 10 times.
Stand in front of a chair with your feet hip-width apart.
Sit down slowly and with control.
Stand up slowly and with control. Try not to use momentum or your hands to help you stand up.
Complete five repetitions.
Stand facing a counter or the back of a chair.
Keep your weight on your heels and push your hips back.
Let your knees bend and lower your buttocks toward the floor.
Keep your chest facing out and don’t allow your knees to collapse inward.
Go to a comfortable depth (without going past a 90 degree angle in your knees) and then press into your heels and squeeze your buttocks to stand back upright.
Use a counter or the back of the chair for support if needed.
Perform this 10 times in a row, then take a short break (30 to 60 seconds) and perform another 10 repetitions.
Single Leg Hip Hinge
Stand and balance on one leg.
Lean forward and touch the floor, while extending and lifting your leg behind you. Keep your spine straight and hinge at your hip.
Return to your starting position.
Complete five repetitions with each leg.
Face a wall, an arms-length away, with your hands flat against the wall
Lean toward the wall and then push yourself back to the start position.
Complete five repetitions.
Single Leg Forward Stretch
Begin with your feet directly underneath your hips and your knees slightly bent.
Put your weight on one leg, bend at your hips, and slowly lower your upper body until it is almost parallel to the floor. Raise your other leg up behind you as you bend.
Stop when you feel your back begin to round and return back to the starting position.
Use a chair for balance if necessary.
Perform this stretch 10 times in a row, then switch sides and perform a second 10 repetitions.
Lay on your back with your knees bent, one hand on your stomach, and the other on your chest.
Count to five as you breathe in through your nose and let your stomach rise into your hand. As you continue breathing in, let your chest rise into your other hand.
Slowly exhale and let your chest and stomach fall.
Perform this 10 times in a row. You can perform this exercise while standing if you do not have room to lie down.
Self-care for caregivers is important to maintain your energy for caregiving and prevent burnout.
Strategies for transferring a person from one position to another can help you safely support the added weight.
Exercise can help you build resilience for the carrying and lifting tasks of caregiving.
Transferring a person. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.caregiver.org/resource/transferring-person/
Hadler N. M. (1997). Back pain in the workplace. What you lift or how you lift matters far less than whether you lift or when. Spine, 22(9), 935–940. https://doi.org/10.1097/00007632-199705010-00001