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Caring for Caregivers

Establishing a safe lifting program at your facility

By Guy Fragala, PhD, CSP

I would like to begin this article with an important statement from the mission of Embrace magazine: "Embrace encourages caregivers to remember to take time to care for themselves. Every caregiver needs to take a step back from time to time and focus on their own well-being and happiness, bothfor their own sake and the sake of the residents who depend upon them to provide top-notch care."

The urgent need for safe lifting programs

The long-term care industry is dedicated to serving the needs of our aging population and others in need of post-acute care. However, playing this role can be hazardous to those caregivers providing a high level of quality care. In fact, when considering data published each year by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nursing aides are consistently listed as the occupation at the greatest risk for disabling musculoskeletal injuries. When investigating the cause of these injuries, the majority are caused by lifting and assisting the dependent patients and residents who require help with mobility needs. Caregivers over the years have put their patients and residents first and accepted the risk of a back injury as part of the job. Many caregivers have gone though life enduring a painful disability.

Today we have learned that we can change and improve what I consider to be an unacceptable and needless situation that places caregivers at risk and can have a negative impact on quality of care. I have worked for close to 40 years to improve health and safety conditions for healthcare workers and create safer environments in healthcare. Early in my career, using my training in ergonomics, I recognized that the task of manually lifting and moving dependent residents and patients in healthcare facilities was beyond the physical capabilities of the caregiving workforce. The approach being taken to try and safely lift and move dependent patients and residents was to teach caregivers proper body mechanics for lifting. Through my research and experience, I learned that because of the loads involved and the required postures in health care , there was no way to conduct these patient and resident lifts safely when done manually.

The focus of my work today is to introduce technology into the environment of care that will eliminate or reduce the need to perform high-risk activities that put caregivers at risk for injury. We now possess the technology to safely lift and move residents without putting caregivers at risk. We're also able to make conditions safer and more comfortable for residents. We have high-quality full-body sling lifts, stand assist lifts, ceiling lifts, many lifting aid devices and features built into bed system designs that eliminate the need to do manual lifting.

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