Wheel Chair Transfers
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on May 1, 2023.
A wheelchair transfer is when you move a person into or out of a wheelchair. You may need to use transfer aids such as a gait belt, a sliding board, or a mechanical lift to help move a person. These transfer aids can help make transfers safer and easier for you and the person that you are moving.
How to avoid an injury during a wheelchair transfer:
- Ask for help if needed. The person may be heavy, or he or she may begin to fall while you are moving him or her.
- Use good body mechanics:
- Bend your knees while you transfer the person. Move from your hips. Do not move people using your back.
- Do not leave your feet in place and twist your body at the waist during a transfer.
- Keep your arms close to your body rather than stretching them out during a transfer. Place your feet as wide apart as your hips.
- Keep your back curved rather than holding it straight. Do not bend your head forward during a transfer.
- Never let the person you are moving hold or hug you around your neck while you are moving him or her.
- Stand very close to the person while you transfer him or her.
- Use your body's momentum (force gained by moving) to move the person.
- You and the person you transfer should wear non-skid shoes , such as running shoes.
- Check the wheelchair and transfer aids. Look at the material, stitching, straps, chains, and hooks. If the transfer aids look weak or broken, do not use them.
- Park the wheelchair as close as possible to the area where you will do the transfer. Transfer the person on the side of his or her body that is stronger.
- Lock the wheels of the wheelchair before doing every transfer. When you move a person from a bed to a wheelchair, raise the head of the bed as much as possible first. Then lower the bed as close to the floor as possible.
- Talk to the person who will be helping you. Explain how you plan do the transfer before you do it. Move together smoothly as you do the transfer. Ask the person that you are moving to help as much as he or she can.
- Move the armrests and footrests before every transfer. Make sure the person's feet are resting flat on the floor. Always move the footrests and armrest back to the correct position after you have transferred the person.
- If the person you are moving begins to fall, bend your knees and lower him or her slowly to the nearest safe surface. Call for help. Never grab or hold on to a person's clothing to try to keep him or her from falling.
How to transfer a person using a gait belt:
A gait or transfer belt is a device that is placed around the person's waist or lower body. It may be used to help move a person to and from a wheelchair. It is used for a person who can stand but needs help getting up from a sitting position. Follow these steps to help transfer a person using a gait belt:
- Prepare the wheelchair and the person for the transfer.
- Fasten the gait belt securely around the person's waist. Ask the person to hold on to you if he or she can.
- Grip the belt tightly, bend your knees, and keep your back straight.
- Lift or move the person with your arm and leg muscles. Do not use your back muscles. Do not twist your body when you move or lift the person.
- Turn with small steps until the person's back is in front of the wheelchair. Ask the person to help by reaching for the wheelchair behind him or her. This may make it easier for the person to sit down in the wheelchair.
- Bend forward while bending your knees, and lower the person into the wheelchair.
- To move a person out of his or her wheelchair using a gait belt, follow the same steps.
How to transfer a person using a sliding board and a gait belt:
A sliding board is a flat surface that can be used as a bridge between 2 areas. It is used when the person can move but is too weak to transfer himself or herself. It may also be used if the person is heavy. Follow these steps to move a person into a wheelchair using a gait belt:
- Place the gait belt around the person's hips and buttocks. Then place one end of the sliding board under his or her buttocks. The sliding board should form a bridge between the place he or she is transferring from and the wheelchair.
- Put one of your knees between the person's knees. Hold the gait belt or its handles. Slowly slide the patient across the board to the wheelchair. Ask the person to help by pushing his or her palms on the board and moving towards the wheelchair.
- Remove the board once the person is seated in the wheelchair.
- To move a person out of his or her wheelchair using a sliding board, follow the same steps.
How to transfer a person using a mechanical lift:
A mechanical lift is equipment that is used to move a person over a short distance. The lift can be electric or hand-powered. It can be attached to the floor, wall, or ceiling, or you may be able to move it from place to place. A lift can be used for a person who cannot stand up by himself or herself or for a person who is too heavy to be lifted easily. It can also be used for a person who is unable to help with the move.
- How to move a person into a wheelchair:
- Roll the person onto his or her side. Slide the sling underneath him or her. Roll the person onto his or her other side and spread the sling evenly under him or her.
- If the person is lying down, raise the head of the bed so he or she is sitting up.
- Correctly attach the sling's hooks, straps, or chains to the lift. Lift the person by pumping the lift or turning it on. Ask the person to keep still while he or she is being lifted.
- Move the lift until the person is over the wheelchair. Slowly lower him or her into it. Move the person into a position so that he or she is comfortable.
- Unhook the sling from the lift. You may leave the sling under the person in case you need to transfer him or her again.
- How to move a person out of a wheelchair:
- Lift or tilt one side of the person's body up slightly. Slide the sling underneath his or her buttocks.
- Lift or tilt the other side of the person's body and spread the sling evenly under him or her.
- Attach the sling to the mechanical lift. Raise the person by pumping the lift or by turning it on.
- Move the lift until the person is over the place where he or she wants to be transferred. Slowly lower the person down until he or she is seated. Move the person into a position so that he or she is comfortable.
- Unhook the sling from the lift. Leave the sling under the person if you will need to transfer him or her again.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You see new sores or tears on the skin of the person that you are moving.
- The person's shoulder, arm, or another body area looks different after you have moved him or her.
- The person has new pain after you have moved him or her.
Return to the emergency department if:
- The person that you are moving has fainted and cannot be woken up.
- The person that you are moving has fallen down and looks like he or she is hurt.
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