More Than Love Handles

Emily Post’s book of etiquette indicates that a gentleman should put his hand under a women’s elbow as she steps off the curb to prevent any risk of falling.

This courtesy may have started as early as the 1800’s with ladies’ large petticoats. At the time, who would have thought about the potential damage this support could cause to the shoulder girdle? In the 21st century this is a concern, particularly to caregivers in the healthcare industry.

The shoulder joint is a ball and socket held in place with ligaments. Tendons then connect muscles to the skeletal structure. As we age, this overused joint can be damaged by helpful loved ones and/or caregivers. We may not only need help stepping off the curb, but rising out of a chair, moving onto a toilet, and getting into the car.

The shoulder girdle is not designed for the stress incurred when the arm is used as a “handle” to raise a person out of a seated posture. This is hazardous to both the resident/patient and the caregiver. MEMIC has long recognized the injury exposure “lifting” places on healthcare workers. Preventing lifting injuries to both caregivers and patients starts with eliminating the act of “lifting.”

The traditional gait belt was used by physical therapists to help guide and assist patients when re-learning to ambulate. Over the years, caregivers have mutated its use into handles for assisting patients/residents to a standing posture. In January 2016, MEMIC committed to provide our healthcare industry policyholders a different type of gait belt. We call this product the Safe Assist Belt (SAB). The SAB includes vertical handles on a wide padded belt with slip resistant material on the inside. The padding makes it much more comfortable for the patient/resident, and the handles allow a more neutral wrist posture. However, it is not just the vertical handles and padding that is significant. The SAB is intended to replace the traditional gait belt, but also requires a new method to assist residents/patients. Now the mechanism to elevate a seated person is a push/pull using the legs and not a “lift” which required the use of the bicep and lower back.

The new device requires training for all caregivers. The training not only addresses the change in technique, but an explanation as to why this change will improve the safety of the caregiver and improve quality of care for patients/residents. Training the frontline caregivers is rewarding as they learn the technique and realize this new tool makes their job safer and easier. Changing the technique comes with challenges. A new habit must be developed. However, taking the lift out of the maneuver is imperative. Below you can see the” right pull” and the “incorrect lift.”

For further assistance with training, including a demonstration video, check out the resources in the MEMIC Safety Academy or contact your MEMIC Safety Management Consultant.

The right pull technique

The incorrect lift