Transfer from Wheelchair to Toilet: How to Safely Help Seniors

transfer from wheelchair to toilet

Prevent injury while helping someone use the toilet

Most family caregivers aren’t trained on how to safely help older adults with limited mobility move from one place to another.

One common task is to help someone in a wheelchair move to the toilet. If you don’t use safe lifting and transfer techniques, it’s easy to hurt yourself or your older adult.

To help protect your body, we found a helpful 5 minute video from mmLearn.org with a step-by-step demonstration of the proper technique to safely transfer from wheelchair to toilet.

We share an overview of the video and emphasize the essential safety tips.




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Get a real-life demonstration of a safe transfer from wheelchair to toilet

In this 5 minute video, a woman uses safe lifting and transfer techniques to help a taller man move from his wheelchair to the toilet.

This demonstration shows what to do in bathrooms where the wheelchair can be placed near the toilet. It also shows what to do when the bathroom isn’t large enough to fit the wheelchair inside

The video also shows what not to do and which movements are likely to cause injury.

Get ready

  • Remove bath mats or rugs
  • Keep good body mechanics in mind
  • Have gait belt handy (optional)
  • Move the wheelchair into the proper position and lock the brakes
  • Move the wheelchair “feet” out of the way
  • If needed, unfasten the person’s belt and/or unbutton their pants

Get up from the wheelchair

  • Ask them to scoot to the edge of the wheelchair seat and lean forward
  • Ask them to place their hands on the arms of the wheelchair and push up or to hold your forearms
  • Stand closely in front of them and hold the gait belt (if using) or their waist and stand up together in a controlled motion – use your knees to raise and lower your own body, don’t bend over and potentially injure your back
  • If their legs are not strong, place your knees in front of theirs (called blocking) while they stand – shown at 2:45 minutes in video
  • If they have a weaker side, stand on their weaker side to provide support

Sit on the toilet

  • Use small steps to guide them to pivot and turn 90 degrees and back up until the toilet seat is at the back of their knees
  • Keep one hand on the gait belt and help them pull down their pants and underwear
  • Ask them to bend their knees and slowly lower themselves down to the seat – use your knees to raise and lower your own body, don’t bend over and potentially injure your back
  • If there’s a toilet frame or raised seat with arms, ask them to reach back and use those arms to help lower themselves onto the seat

Return to the wheelchair

  • Ask them to scoot forward on the toilet seat and lean forward
  • Ask them to place their hands on the arms of the toilet frame and push up or to hold your forearms
  • Stand closely in front of them and hold the gait belt (if using) or their waist and stand up together in a controlled motion – use your knees to raise and lower your own body, don’t bend over and potentially injure your back
  • Use small steps to guide them to pivot and turn 90 degrees and back up to the wheelchair (be sure the brakes are still locked)
  • When they feel the wheelchair seat at the back of their knees, ask them to slowly sit
  • Stand closely in front of them and hold the gait belt (if using) or their waist and lower together in a controlled motion – use your knees to raise and lower your own body, don’t bend over and potentially injure your back



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Remember these essential safety tips

DON’T

  • Bend from your waist
  • Try to pull your older adult up
  • Ask them to hold onto your shoulders or neck
  • Let them use toilet paper holders, towel bars, or other non-sturdy items to help them sit or stand

 

Reduce accidents by visiting the bathroom regularly

As the video shows, it takes some time to help an older adult get from their wheelchair to the toilet.

That’s why it’s a good practice to make regular trips to the bathroom. 

This reduces urgency, decreases the chances of having a bathroom accident, and reduces the risk of injury due to rushing.

Help your older adult use the toilet after meals and every couple of hours. Don’t wait until they say they need to go – by then the need might be urgent.

 

Next Step  See how to safely help someone transfer from wheelchair to toilet (5 min)

 

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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Thornbrook Home Care

 

This article wasn’t sponsored, but does contain affiliate links. We never link to products or services for the sole purpose of making a commission. Recommendations are based on our honest opinions. For more information, see How We Make Money.


2 Comments

  • Reply September 7, 2019

    Sher

    What if they hate the gait belt and pitch a fit about it? Also if they have problems putting their weight on the armrests and getting up. The transferring from chair to walker or wheelchair to chair is the biggest problems we are having with mobility.

    • Reply September 7, 2019

      DailyCaring

      If the gait belt is needed, but they refuse, you might want to ask their doctor or physical therapist about other options that would be safe to use.

      If they aren’t able to help themselves up using the armrests, the video also shows an option where the person holds the caregiver’s forearms. However, the person still needs to be able to mostly use their own strength to lift or lower themselves. The caregiver is there for assistance and support — NOT to lift or lower them completely.

      If your older adult isn’t able to help themselves enough, it may be time to investigate a lift or other mobility device that will lift them. Their doctor or physical therapist would be a good start for recommendations on what type of lift or mobility device would be most helpful for them.

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