How to Help Seniors Get Up Without Injuring Yourself: Safe Transfer Techniques [Video]

Protect your back while helping your older adult get up

Many caregivers have aching or injured backs and shoulders because they help older adults get up from chairs or move from one seat to another, like from wheelchair to bed.

Using our natural instincts to help someone get up can cause us to put our bodies in unsafe positions or use muscles that are easily injured.

We often try to lift or pull the person outright, putting a great deal of strain on our own bodies. That increases the risk of injury to yourself and to your older adult.

That’s why it’s so important to learn safe transfer techniques (the official term for helping someone up).

This helps you avoid lifting your older adult outright, save yours body from further aches and pains, and reduces the risk of injury.

To protect your back, we found a helpful, free video that demonstrates two essential safe transfer techniques.

One is for helping someone get up from a seated position and the other is for using a transfer board to move from one seat to another.




Safety is the #1 goal

The ideal situation is to have a qualified medical professional or physical therapist train you in the proper transfer techniques for your specific situation and needs.

When using the techniques shown in this video, please use caution and your best judgement to make sure that any techniques you try are appropriate for both you and your older adult’s physical conditions.

You might even want to practice with an able-bodied partner to get comfortable with the movements before using them with your older adult.

If a technique seems like it might be dangerous for your situation, play it safe and don’t try it.

Instead, call family, friends, or 911 if additional help is needed or if it’s an emergency.


2 must-know safe transfer techniques for family caregivers

The clear and straightforward demonstrations break down the techniques into small steps.

We focus on two of the safe transfer techniques in this video because they’re the most useful when caring for an older adult – helping someone stand up from a seated position and moving from one seat to another seat.

Note: Don’t be put off because the video speaks to professional caregivers – and feel free to ignore the parts that talk about the procedures for working with clients.

1. Introduction and basics (1 min 25 sec in video)
The instructor explains that the most important safety principle is your own body mechanics.

It’s essential to put your own body in the right positions to protect from injury and make the transfers easier to accomplish.

Basic principles include:

  • Increase stability by keeping feet apart with one foot in front of the other (2 min 8 sec in video)
  • Keep your knees bent (2 min 18 sec in video)
  • Move in the same direction that you’re moving the person (2 min 22 sec in video)
  • Keep your center of gravity close to theirs (2 min 26 sec in video)
  • Avoid twisting or stooping (2 min 30 sec in video)
  • Try to maintain the natural curved shape of the spine (2 min 38 sec in video)
  • Minimize risk by thinking through the movement before starting (2 min 50 sec in video)




2. Sitting to standing (5 min 50 sec in video)
This technique is used when you’re helping someone stand up from a seated position.

It can be used for people who can stand and carry their weight with at least one leg.

  1. Make sure you have your older adult help as much as possible.
  2. Ask them to scoot their bottom to the edge of the chair. Use proper body mechanics to help them shift from side to side if they’re not able to do it themselves.
  3. Make sure their feet are flat on the floor and hip-width apart.
  4. Ask them to put one hand on the arm of the chair or on the seat if there are no arms.
  5. Stand at their side, weaker side preferred.
  6. Make sure to face in the direction you’re going to be moving.
  7. Get into a comfortable and stable position with one foot in front of the other while and bend your knees and hips.
  8. Hold the hand of the side where you’re standing without interlocking fingers or thumbs.
  9. Put your hand on their back or hip on the side farthest away from you.
  10. Tell them that you’re going to help them stand now. Then ask them to lean forward and place their nose over their toes and look forward.
  11. Give clear instructions that give them time to get ready for movement, like “Ready, Steady, Stand” or something like “1, 2, 3, stand.”
  12. When you say “stand,” support them as you move together in a forward, upward direction and end in a standing position. Your movement will be to step forward with your back foot and use your hand on their back or hip to guide them up.
  13. Do not grip or lift them.
  14. Make sure they feel steady once they’re in a standing position. If they feel dizzy or unsteady, ask them to sit back down.

Get a summary of these steps at 9 min 18 sec in the video.


3. Sitting to sitting transfers using a transfer board (10 min 28 sec in video)
This technique is used when you’re helping your older adult move from a seated position on one surface to another surface, like from a wheelchair to couch or bed or from a wheelchair into a car.

  1. Position the two seating surfaces about 45 to 90 degrees from each other. For example, place the wheelchair right alongside the bed.
  2. Make sure the two surfaces are about the same height.
  3. If your older adult is in a wheelchair, make sure to lock the wheels and move the armrest out of the way.
  4. Help them shift their bottom to the front edge of their current seat.
  5. Ask them to lean away from where they want to go.
  6. Place 1/3 of the transfer board under their bottom in the space they’ve made by leaning away. Press down on the board as you slide it under to avoid pinching their skin.
  7. Protect your back by kneeling or squatting as you place the board. Don’t bend or stoop.
  8. Try to place the transfer board so that 1/3 of it is under the person, 1/3 is bridging the gap, and 1/3 is on the surface they’re moving to.
  9. Ask them to lean over to place their hand near the end of the transfer board. Make sure they keep all their fingers on top of the board – don’t curl any fingers underneath or they will get hurt.
  10. Ask them to shuffle their bottom across the board, using their arms and legs as best they can. You can help them by kneeling behind or in front of them and placing your hands on their hips to guide them across the board. Protect your back by not bending or stooping during this step.
  11. Once they’re safely seated on the new surface, ask them to lean away from the transfer board so you can pull it away.

Get a summary of these steps at 13 min 11 sec in the video.

Note: Feel free to stop watching here. The rest of this video covers safe transfer techniques using slide sheets on beds and various mechanical lift systems.


Next Step  Get a demonstration of two essential safe transfer techniques: sit to stand and sitting to sitting (13 min)


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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: NeuroAbility Rehabilitation


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