The physical stresses and exertion involved in caring for nursing home and hospital patients has caused rising numbers of back injuries and other musculoskeletal problems among direct caregivers. We see these same injuries and problems arising in the home health care setting as well.
Musculoskeletal injuries include damage to muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, bursae, joints, and cartilage, including intervertebral discs. Symptoms of damage can include:
- Pain and/or swelling.
- Numbness, burning, or tingling sensations
- Loss of mobility around a particular joint or joints.
These injuries generally result from the long-term cumulative physical effort of patient transfers as well as acute effects, which result from accidents during transfers. They may also develop from a “peak load”. Peak loads occur when a onetime task or event is performed that requires the body to perform above its capacity.
Registered nurses, registered practical nurses, and health care aides who experience injury and disability from muscoloskeletal injuries face suffering and economic loss. Employers have faced rising workers’ compensation and other lost time costs as well as shortages of needed staff.
An ergonomic approach to patient handling that is part of an overall program to reduce musculoskeletal injuries can benefit caregivers and employers alike. A critical issue in ergonomic patient handling is the distinction between a patient or resident transfer and a lift. A transfer is a dynamic effort in which the client aids in the transfer and is able to bear weight on at least one leg. A lift involves moving a client who cannot bear weight on at least one leg. Lifts should always involve mechanical lifting devices.
Injuries to caregivers during patient and resident transfers usually occur when a patient transfer suddenly becomes a patient lift. Assessment of the client’s capabilities therefore becomes a critical component of any ergonomic patient-handling program. Clients who suddenly lose their balance must be identified to determine whether two caregivers are necessary to affect a transfer or whether a mechanical device is necessary.
The relative sizes of the caregiver and the patient must be considered when one is determining the need for additional staff to aid in a transfer or the need for a mechanical lift. The weight and height differences may dictate the necessity of mechanical assistance.
The Traxx Mobility Systems Titan 500 Overhead Patient Lift is a mechanical lift device that can lower the risk of injury to caregivers. A freestanding frame supports an overhead track that allows a rechargeable electric lift motor to glide gently with little effort on the caregivers part. The Titan 500 Overhead Patient Lift is ideal for home health care situations and requires only one caregiver to transfer a patient from bed to wheelchair and back again.