When is the last time you lifted 100 pounds or more? If you're caring for a dependent loved one, you may do it several times a day. Lifting and moving another person puts tremendous strain on your back, neck and shoulders. It's estimated more than half of caregivers suffer chronic back pain.*
You do not have to disregard your own health and safety to be a good caregiver. Learning how to lift properly and making time for your own physical health benefit both you and your loved one.
If you're providing daily living help to a family member or close friend, you're part of a growing trend. More than 44 million adults in the U.S. – more than 20% of the adult population – provide care for a family member or friend age 18 or older.** As life expectancy increases, more people need help with daily living, such as getting out of bed, bathing and toilet routines.
The demands of these responsibilities can take a toll on caregivers. Surveys routinely find that caregivers' own health takes a downward spiral, which in turn negatively affects their ability to provide care.**
Proper Lifting Techniques
Even when you don't immediately feel pain, serious injuries can occur over time. Lifting too much or improperly can cause micro-tears in spinal disks. This damage can build up and result in bulging or ruptured disks.
You are most at risk for an injury when you are:
- Pulling a person into a sitting position.
- Moving someone to a chair.
- Leaning over for a long time.
Proper lifting techniques can help reduce your chances of injury:
- Maintain alignment of your head, neck and spine.
- Don't bend at your waist.
- Avoid twisting while carrying heavy weight.
- Keep the person you're moving near your body.
- Place your feet shoulder-width apart and use your legs.
10-Minute Caregiver Fitness
As a caregiver, it may feel like you get plenty of physical activity. But exercising for your own health is different. Exercise promotes better sleep, reduces tension and increases energy. Here are some efficient ways to improve your fitness 10 minutes at a time.
Breathe: Periodically during your day, take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth to increase your lung capacity.
Walk: Track out a lap around the house so that you remain close by.
Stretch: Develop a stretch routine that includes each major muscle group. Tips:
- Hold each stretch 30 to 60 seconds.
- Do not bounce.
- Be gentle (no pain).
- Stretch right and left sides equally.
Don’t Ignore a Nagging Injury
Remember that it's not selfish to care for you, too! If you have a nagging pain, it could be a sign of a serious injury to come. It's an important part of your job to protect your health so that you can continue to care for your loved one.
Invision Sally Jobe’s musculoskeletal radiologists are specialized in identifying orthopedic conditions. An MRI or musculoskeletal ultrasound can help identify an injury or chronic condition. If you are experiencing persistent pain, contact your personal physician to discuss your situation and whether an exam at Invision Sally Jobe may be appropriate for you.
Ask for Help
Create opportunities for self-help, such as grab rails in bathrooms, use of a shower chair, walker or other walking aides. If caregiving tasks are physically or emotionally overwhelming for you, ask those around you for help.
* Source: "Ergonomics in Healthcare," ADVANCE for Nurses, 2008.
** Source: National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP.
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