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from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Diseases & Conditions



Staying Healthy

Lifting Techniques for Home Caregivers

Taking care of a spouse or family member at home can be both emotionally and physically challenging. Meeting the physical demands of lifting, turning, and transferring a loved one can put both patient and caregiver at risk for injury.

The most common injuries caregivers experience are to the back, neck, and shoulders, and are often caused by overuse — repeating the same lifting or pulling motions again and again.

Caregivers are at greatest risk for injury when they are:

  • Pulling a person who is reclining in bed into a sitting position.
  • Transferring a person from a bed to a wheelchair.
  • Leaning over a person for long periods of time.

Using proper lifting techniques can help prevent injury. This article provides some general guidelines for lifting and transferring patients safely. Many communities and local hospitals provide training to help non-professionals properly care for a family member at home.

Lifting Techniques

Some general guidelines to follow when you lift or move a person include:

  • Keep your head and neck in proper alignment with your spine; your head, neck, and back should be as straight as possible.
  • Maintain the natural curve of your spine;  bend with your hips and knees, rather than from your back.
  • Avoid twisting your body when carrying a person.
  • Always keep the person who is being moved close to your body.
  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart to maintain your balance.
  • Use the muscles in your legs to lift and/or pull.

If the person is uncooperative, too heavy, or in an awkward position, get help.

Sitting Up in Bed

To move a person who is lying in bed to a wheelchair, put the chair close to the bed and lock the wheels.

If the person is not strong enough to push up with their hands to a sitting position, place one of your arms under the person's legs and your other arm under their back.

Move the person's legs over the edge of the bed while pivoting their body so that the person ends up sitting on the edge of the bed.

Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees bent, and your back in a natural straight position.

Helping patient into sitting position

Sitting up in bed

Standing Up

If the person needs assistance getting into the wheelchair, position the person's feet on the floor and slightly apart. Face the person and place their hands on the bed or on your shoulders.

Your feet should be shoulder-width apart with your knees bent. Place your arms around the person's back and clasp your hands together. Hold the person close to you, lean back, and shift your weight.

Nurses, physical therapists, and others in hospitals often use lifting belts fastened around a person's waist to help with these types of movements. The caregiver then grasps the belt when lifting the patient.

Transferring patient from bed to wheelchair

Standing up

Sitting Down

Pivot toward the wheelchair, bend your knees, and lower the person into the chair.

Make sure the person has both hands on the arms of the chair before you lower them down.

Lowering patient into wheelchair

Sitting down

Last Reviewed

September 2020

Contributed and/or Updated by

Daniel K. Park, MD, FAAOS

Peer-Reviewed by

Stuart J. Fischer, MD, FAAOS

AAOS does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products, or physicians referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, or locate one in your area through the AAOS Find an Orthopaedist program on this website.