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Best Ways to Help Someone Who Uses a Wheelchair or Cane

If a stroke, orthopedic injury or other cause has made a loved one dependent on an assistive device such as a wheelchair, walker or cane, it’s important to know the best way to help him with his mobility and safety. And safety — yours and his — is always first.

“When providing care, keep in mind your own safety,” says Christine Schulte, MD, Outpatient Director for Rehabilitation and Sports Therapy Services for Cleveland Clinic Main Campus and Western Region. “You’re not going to provide much assistance if you hurt yourself in the process.”

Care providers should learn proper body mechanics to ensure that they have a clear understanding of their position in relationship to the patient when transferring the person or helping him move with his assistive device.

“The patient should always be as actively involved as possible,” she says. “Even if it’s limited, all mobility is a good thing.”

How to transfer someone from a bed to a wheelchair

  1. Position the wheelchair. When helping someone transfer out of a bed, start by moving the wheelchair leg rests out of the way, so that you can maneuver the chair as close to the bed as possible. Lock the wheels so the wheelchair doesn’t move.
  2. Get the person in an upright position. Have the person roll on his side and use his upper extremities to push himself into an upright position as his legs slide over the side of the bed.
    “Using their body weight for leverage and to let their legs drop to pull their trunk up allows the patient to do more work,” Schulte says. “The person assisting is guiding, versus trying to pull them upright in bed.”
  3. Help him stand and pivot. Have the person lean forward with his nose over his toes to distribute the weight onto his good foot or feet. Then, help guide and pivot him on the weight-bearing foot orfeet and lower him into the chair.
    “If the person is very weak, you should tighten a belt around their waist to help guide them, and it gives the caregiver something to hold onto to guide their movement,” Schulte advises. “If they have loose clothing on, it’s just going to slip under your hands creating an unsafe transfer.”

How to help someone navigate stairs

When helping someone climb up stairs, it’s best to walk next to or behind him. If he starts to fall, it’s easier to nudge him forward. Keep your hand on his shoulders or on the belt to keep his center of gravity forward.

If he is descending, stand in front of him, since it’s easier to help him keep his balance than trying to hold onto him from behind if he falls.

Also, the person should lead with his good foot going up the steps, and with his bad foot going down the steps, so that the good leg is always initiating the movement.

“If they’re really struggling, there’s no reason they can’t sit on the steps and scoot themselves up and down until they get a little bit stronger,” Schulte says. They can also transition at the top of a stool, then a chair, then to a standing position.

Preventing falls

Keep the disabled person’s home clear of clutter on the floor, such as extension cords, laundry baskets and throw rugs that can cause the person to trip or fall. Lastly, ensure that hallways and walkways are well lit so the person has a clear pathway that he can see.


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Practice Policy Update Regarding COVID-19

Dear Patients:

Our patients, employees and family are our top priority at Long Island Spine Specialists, P.C.

We ask you to not visit any of our locations if you have symptoms such as fever, sneezing, coughing and possible shortness of breath.

Please cancel your appointment and re-schedule once you are feeling better and are no longer suffering with symptoms.

Only non-symptomatic patients will be seen. No exceptions.

Accompanying family members – including children – are asked to remain in the waiting area and will not be allowed to enter the exam rooms.

During this time of high concern regarding the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) we are taking extra precautions to maintain the highest possible standards of safety and cleanliness. Please be advised that we are carefully following recommendations from both the CDC and WHO and are here to help guide you through this time if needed.

Some steps we are taking to keeping safe:

  1. We know how important cleanliness is and always maintain the highest standards of cleanliness. To further offer you peace of mind, we have increased the frequency of the cleaning of our office.
  2. Rest assured that hand washing is strictly followed. Hand sanitizer is available to all staff and patients.
  3. Additionally, if you have recently traveled to a country with high rates of the coronavirus or have been on a cruise, please reschedule your visit for at least 14 days from your return date. We will gladly accommodate your needs to reschedule. At that time, a telehealth interface can be arranged if necessary.

Find up-to-date and accurate information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and feel free to reach out with questions.

- Your team at Long Island Spine Specialists, P.C.

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To best serve your individual needs, please choose from the following options:

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To learn more about Long Island Spine Specialists – and to discover how we can relieve your pain and help you find an improved quality of life – please contact our office today and schedule a consultation.

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