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How to Transfer A Person Safely

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

A transfer means moving a person from one place to another. A bedridden person may be independent (needing minimal help) or totally dependent. The person may be able to do rehabilitation exercises by moving to a chair. A transfer can also take pressure off the skin and keep blood flowing. The person's risk for bedsores and blood clots is lower if he or she moves often. Safe transfer techniques can help protect the person and you from injury and falls.


General safety precautions:

  • Use correct form. It is important to protect your lower back when you transfer a person. Do not stretch your back or turn at your waist during a transfer. Keep your body in a straight line, with a straight back and bent knees. Your head and chest should be up and straight. Keep your feet a little wider than your shoulder width. Keep the person's head, torso, and legs in line during the transfer. Stand close to the person before you move him or her.
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  • Move the person safely. Lift with your legs, not with your back. The person's arms should be crossed over his or her chest before a move. This will help protect you and prevent the person's arm from becoming trapped beneath him or her. Do not let the person wrap his or her arms around your neck or back. The person will hang too much weight on you. This can injure your back or neck. Do not pull the person by the arms.
  • Ask for help if needed. Ask the person to help as much as possible. This will help prevent you from bearing too much of the person's weight. Have the person scoot to the edge of the bed if he or she is able. Ask someone to help you move the person if needed. You and your helpers can count out loud to 3 to coordinate efforts to help the person stand or move.
  • Move the person smoothly, without sudden movements. Quick changes in position can cause falls, injuries, or pain. You can also tear the person's skin if a movement is too quick or forceful.
  • Use the right device to help you transfer the person safely. Equipment includes slide boards, hoists, and transfer belts. Grab bars can be placed on walls to help make walkways safer. These are metal bars the person can hold onto to prevent falls. The bars can also help the person stand and sit more easily. The person's healthcare provider can suggest devices or equipment that are right for the person.
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Before you transfer the person:

  • Check the person for pain or other problems. A transfer can cause pain or make pain worse. The person may need to take his or her pain medicine before the transfer. Check the person's skin for sores, redness, or other problems. Skin can tear during a transfer. You may need to cover the skin with a bandage to protect it.
  • Gather extra pillows. Pillows can be placed behind the person and between his or her knees for comfort and support.
  • Look around the room. Remove anything you might trip over. Wear shoes with nonslip soles. The person should also wear shoes, or socks with nonslip soles. This will help prevent you or the person from slipping.
  • Check that equipment will not move during a transfer. Lock the wheels of a wheelchair or walker before you move the person. Make sure that the chair or other object will not move when the person is placed there.
  • Secure all medical equipment on or near the person. You may need to move or secure tubes, medicine pumps, or monitors. Make sure nothing will come loose or break when you move the person. Do not remove any equipment from the person unless the person's healthcare provider tells you to.

After you transfer the person:

  • Make sure the person is comfortable. The person should not be in a position that cuts off circulation or is uncomfortable. Adjust the person after you move him or her to a bed or chair. You may need to add or adjust pillows. If you placed a slide sheet under the person in bed, you can use it to change the person's position. Have someone help you by standing on the other side of the person's bed. You will each hold the slide sheet at the person's shoulder and knee levels. Move the sheet up, down, or to the side as needed so the person is comfortable.
    Transfer Sheet
  • Help the person sit with his or her back resting against the back of the chair. If the person is in a wheelchair, place his or her feet and arms on the chair rests.
  • Check all medical equipment to make sure it is running correctly. Make sure any alarms are turned on. Check for tubes or other equipment that needs to be adjusted after the move.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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