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Alzheimer's & Dementia
About Dementia
Agitated Behavior
- Activities
Clothing & Dressing
Clutter & Hoarding
Falls & Mobility
- Things to Do
- Canes & Walkers
Late Stage
- Memory Aids
- Mid-Late Stage
- Body Ergonomics
- 10 Golden Rules
- What Not to Do
- Lifts

You, the caregiver, are just as important as the patient because if anything happens to you, everyone's in trouble. Avoid injury by following the Golden Rules. And keep in mind that it's therapeutic for the person to help as much as possible because it helps the person maintain muscle strength and mobility.

helping a person with dementia transfer
10 Golden Rules During a Transfer

Ask the person for his or her help, using simple step-by-step instructions, even if you think the person will not understand you. Allow plenty of time to respond. You should only be assisting, not doing for the individual. Sometimes, all a care receiver in the beginning and middle stages actually needs is a hand on the lower back and one on the shoulder to gently guide them forward.

Use transfer devices whenever possible to slide, push, and pull instead of physically lifting. You'll have better success at not injuring yourself.

Get equipment ready. Have the walker nearby or position the wheelchair close to the bed or chair and lock the wheels. If possible, remove the armrest and swing away or remove the leg rests in preparation for the transfer. Check the area for clutter on which you or the care receiver might trip on.

Use your body properly. Take in account your body type as well as the body type of your care receivers. Where you place your hands and your approach will differ depending on your body type and your care receiver's. But the golden rule is - get yourself in a position that allows you to maintain a "neutral" spine. Anytime that you lose the natural lumbar curve, you're putting your back at risk for injury. It's the small micro traumas that develop into an injury versus just one single isolated event.

Position the care receiver's body properly. For example,
  • For standing transfers, make sure the person's feet are positioned slightly under his or her knees.

  • For seated transfers, make sure your care receiver's head/shoulders are bending away from the surface he or she is transferring. In other words, lead with the "okole" (Hawaiian for buttocks).
Know your care receiver's assets and deficits. You want to maximize the person's assets so the person is doing the most he/she can do - and you as the caregiver do the least. Keep in mind that it's therapeutic for your care receiver to help as much as possible because it helps the person maintain muscle strength and mobility.

For example:
  • If your care receiver has a stronger left or right side, make sure to lead with that side.

  • If your care receiver tends to push or grab, lead with the person's non-pushing /grabbing side or control the "pushing/grabbing arm(s)" by how you position your hands.
Communicate, giving simple step-by-step instructions, especially when you're ready to transfer. That's why counting to three is helpful - you and your care receiver then move at the same time. But allow for greater time if your care receiver has Parkinson's disease because initiating movement will be more difficult.

Use momentum, like rocking and counting to three, to transfer.

Give the person a moment to adjust to each new position. People with dementia react slower then we do, and rushing a person can be disastrous.

Get professional advice. Many insurance companies cover a physical therapy consultation for you to get specific strengthening exercises for your care receiver and hands-on training for your unique situation. Of the numerous ways to help a person transfer, the safest may be unique to your care recipient's situation. Keep in mind that with individuals with dementia, what works today may not be work a month from now, so it's important to get ongoing advice from a health professional.


Coaching a Person

Caregiver Injuries

Body Mechanics Demo

Sitting Up in Bed

Bed to Wheelchair

Using a Hoyer Lift

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