Helping a Loved One into the Car
Posted By Maryann On AUGUST 22,2017
If you are helping an aging friend or relative, very likely you assist with transportation. In fact, driving a loved one to errands or to doctor appointments is one of the first and most common forms of assistance.
1.4 billion trips
According to AARP, family caregivers provide 1.4 billion car trips a year. If you are a family caregiver, your car may be one of your most important caregiving tools.
Picking the best car
This month's newsletter for families includes an article about the caregiver-friendly car. If a new car (or new-to-you car) is in your future, check out our tips for vetting the vehicle.
A primary emphasis in choosing a car is finding features that will spare your back. Back injuries are the number one caregiving injury. Cramped conditions and the common need to twist are a setup when leveraging the weight of a loved one who may not have much muscle strength to help you.
At Caring Choices, we see it all too frequently. A dedicated family member injures their back trying to help. This makes their caregiving duties even more difficult. And painful. Your back is a finite resource. You have only one. It needs to be protected!
Simple tips to keep in mind
Wear flat, non-slip shoes. This is not a job for high heels.
Avoid wet or slippery surfaces if possible.
Park with maximum room around you, preferably in a flat parking lot rather than parallel parking at a curb.
Ask your loved one which part of the process they want help with. It's tempting to jump in and do all of it. Not good for either of you. Allow them to do as much as they can.
There are skills you can learn about safe transfers. Things like bending with your knees rather than leaning over with your back. Or shifting your feet rather than twisting your spine. YouTube is full of videos. Search for "body mechanics" or "car transfers."
Know your limits
The last thing you want is for both you and your loved one to falter and lose balance. Before each transfer, ask yourself the following questions:
Do you feel strong enough to handle the person's weight?
Do you have a firm foothold where you are standing?
Are there obstacles that can be removed (or a nearby place you can put the car) to make the process easier?
Is there anything your relative can pull on besides you (e.g., the handle above the door)?
Is there anyone nearby who can help?
As the north New Jersey experts in family caregiving, we understand body mechanics. These are some of the important skills we teach our clients. If you would like help learning about safe transfers or other caregiving information, give us a call at 973-627-4087.