How to Take Care of Your Back While Taking Care of Seniors

senior walking with her caregiver from the back viewTaking care of your back is probably the last thing on your mind when you’re taking care of seniors or your elderly loved one. But as you might already know, without the proper technique, repeatedly lifting heavy weight will eventually harm your back and other muscles in your body.

Whether you’re a caregiver or a concerned family member, you should be aware of the risks in lifting or supporting an elderly person (or any person) and find ways to avoid an injury. So what should you do?

Here are tips on how to take care of your back while taking care of seniors.

  1. Proper handling

The most important thing you should know about aiding an elderly person is to identify which areas of your body are the most affected by heavy lifting – your shoulders, neck, and back. So reduce injuries in these areas by keeping in mind the following lifting techniques:

  • Have stable back and feet. Move as close to the person you’re supporting as possible in order to keep your stability.
  • Slightly bend your knees to prepare for the lift. Make sure your abs are tight, your back is straight, and your knees are apart (wider than your shoulders).
  • Don’t lean or bend over as you lift the person as bending forward will put pressure on your back and neck.
  • Push with your leg muscles when doing the lifting process. This gives you more stability and puts pressure on your legs instead of your shoulders and back.

Certified caregivers are often trained to know the essential points and techniques to lift and transfer a person correctly. Knowing the proper techniques in lifting someone will prevent you and the person you’re handling from sustaining injuries.

It’s also important for you to know if you have the capability and energy to lift the person, otherwise, don’t hesitate to ask for help.

  1. Exercise

senior woman using an exercise bikeOf course, knowing the right technique is important, but you can never execute the lifting techniques if you’re not physically capable of the task.

No, we don’t mean you have to hit the gym and gain muscle just for the job. There are exercises you can do focused on improving your posture, flexibility, and strengthening your core and back.

Having a complete exercise program will help you achieve the physical requirements for lifting. It should include aerobic activity, cardio, stretching, and strength training. These types of exercises will help improve blood flow in your body, which promotes healing, strengthen your muscles, and prevent joint pain.

Although, if you already have an existing back, neck, or shoulder injury, you might have to opt for a lighter and different kind of exercise. Consider consulting a physical therapist to help you determine the right activities to prevent aggravating whatever injuries you already have.

Overall, exercising will give you the strength, flexibility, and balance to properly lift a person. Which, in return, will prevent falling and injuring yourself and the person you’re handling.

  1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

And by a healthy lifestyle, we mean do your best to stop smoking or drinking alcohol. Taking care of a person can be a daunting task, and you might be tempted to take the lid off the pot by smoking or drinking, but it will only do you more harm than good.

Taking care of your back doesn’t only mean you should be fit and have proper technique, it also means you have to have a healthy lifestyle.

Smoking has long been found to be one of the causes of osteoporosis. Studies show that there is a substantial decrease in bone density with a person who smokes compared to those who don’t. Furthermore, smoking also increases the risk of bone fractures and also has adverse effects on healing after the fracture.

Just like smoking, alcohol consumption also increases risk factors in your bones and is also one of the causes of osteoporosis. Consuming more than 2 to 3 ounces of alcohol every day impairs your digestive system from absorbing calcium properly.

Too much alcohol in your body increases the levels of the bone-damaging hormones called cortisol and of the parathyroid hormone. Cortisol then exacerbates bone breakdown, while the parathyroid hormone drains calcium from your bones.

Additionally – as if all the above isn’t convincing enough – drinking too much also kills bone-making cells called osteoblasts. Reduced osteoblasts will put you at further risk of getting bone injuries as your bones grow weaker and weaker.

So, the solution is easy, maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep a healthy back. Easy, right?

  1. Watch out for the signals

senior woman with lower back painYour body usually sends you signals whenever something is wrong with it. Pain signals in particular areas don’t always mean you have complications there. Sometimes, other organs involved.

Back pain can mean a lot of things like kidney failure, bowel problems, or bladder issues. But danger signs that may lead to back injuries include difficulty in walking, numbness in your fingers, hands, feet, or toes, and pressure on your neck and shoulders.

The most precise indicator of back pain is, well, back pain. But being aware of what your body is telling you can help you figure out if you’re about to have back pain or injuries before a huge and agonizing pain finally hits you.

The case is the same if you recently had an accident. Maybe you fell on your back, or a seemingly painless impact on your back happened that you shoved-off. You may experience weakness, imbalance, and difficulty in breathing at first.

Those are indicators that you may have sustained back trauma. So before you lift someone or any heavy object, check yourself if you’re currently experiencing some of the symptoms that may lead to damages in your back or spine.

  1. Have a regular check-up with your doctor

Taking care of yourself by exercising and living a healthy life will help support a healthy back. But for you to be 99.99% sure (if not one hundred) that you have a healthy back, you should have a regular checkup with your doctor.

If you don’t know who to consult, there is a wide variety of specialists with slightly different roles that can help you with maintaining a healthy back. You can consult:

  • Obstetricians
  • Gynecologists
  • Pediatricians
  • Chiropractors
  • Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Surgeons
  • Neurologists
  • Physical Therapists

Remember, the best way for you to take care of someone is to also take care of yourself, and taking care of yourself includes taking care of your back. Never try to work through pain your back, as you might never be able to do even the simplest tasks.

Whether lifting someone is a part of your profession or you’re taking care of a loved one, follow everything we said to take care of your back. Stay healthy!

Editor’s Note: This article was provided by Michelle Davis. Michelle is a fitness and health enthusiast who is always searching for new ways to improve on well-being. Michelle is the founder and lead editor for PostureCorrectorBrace.com, a comprehensive online guide on spinal health, such as treatments, exercises, symptoms, self-help remedies and posture braces reviews.

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