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Posted 09/16/2019 in Category 1

Transfers and Repositioning Low Mobility Individuals

Transfers and Repositioning Low Mobility Individuals

When taking care of low mobility or bed-bound individuals, a good part of the care is transferring and repositioning. These are both areas of care that can harm an individual if not done correctly. It doesn't matter if they are an in-home care aide or if they work in a nursing facility. Understanding proper techniques for transferring and repositioning is essential to the everyday safety of any individual under their care.

The proper techniques for transferring and repositioning should be an essential part of any training program, but they should also check with the care team to see if there are any special instructions on a case-by-case basis. Let's take a look at some of the equipment that can be used when transferring individuals that have little to no mobility.


Transferring entails moving an individual from one surface to another whether that be another bed, wheelchair, table, or other place that it might be necessary for an individual to have access to. There are several devices that can be utilized in transferring which can include the following:

Slide Boards

If a standing transfer is unsafe to achieve when transferring from one surface to another, a slide board can be used to provide support for the individual in the seated position. It allows the person to scoot across the gap without having to put full pressure on their legs.

Gait Belts

If an individual has balance problems or has a problem standing or sitting, a gait belt can be used to allow the caregiver to assist with these movements. The gait belt should be placed on the individual before starting the maneuver so that the caregiver can assist wherever needed.

Patient Lift Sling

Patient lift slings can be used either manually or with a machine. The manual type is meant to be fitted under the individual to allow two caregivers access to handles so that they can physically lift the patient in order to transfer them to another surface.

The other type of lift sling is meant to work with an electric or hydraulic lift machine that the sling will hook to so that it can be used to support the weight of the patient. Both of these techniques require specialized training that should be provided when they start caring for the individual.

Portable Patient Transfer Units

A portable transfer unit is a sling or device that can be used to manually transfer a patient from one surface to the next. They are designed so that two or more healthcare workers can aid in lifting and moving an individual with as little trouble as possible. There are several different varieties of patient transport units, many of which can support upwards of a thousand pounds.


Properly repositioning a low mobility individual while they are in bed is an important aspect of any caregiver’s job. It is necessary that the patient be turned every 2 hours to avoid creating hotspots that can turn into bed sores at a later date. Wedge cushions and pillows should be used to ensure that the person being repositioned is comfortable and that they will stay in the correct position.

You should make sure that there is a cushion in between joints such as ankles, knees, and elbows because these are the areas of the body with bony protrusions that can cause the skin to break down. When repositioning an individual, if you need to move them up, down, or sideways in the bed, there are a few solutions that can be used to achieve this while providing safety and comfort for the patient 

Slide Sheet

Slide sheets are commonly made out of a nylon material which is slick to reduce the amount of friction that is created between the client and whatever surface they are on. Many times in lieu of a proper slide sheet, a full top sheet will be used that is folded into quarters. While this is effective for moving the individual, it is not as easy to use as a proper slide sheet. Slide sheets can be used to move a low mobility individual into whatever position you're looking for so that you can ensure comfort and help prevent bed sores

Wedge Cushions/Pillows

Wedge cushions tend to come in different sizes so that they can be used in different areas or the full length of the body. A wedge cushion is used to position individuals that are unable to move so that they do not lay on the same spot all the time. Pillows can also be used along with wedge cushions to help with positioning low mobility individuals.

Why is it Important to Reposition Bed Bound Individuals?

Repositioning low mobility individuals is an integral part of care. It prevents pressure from happening on all of the major pressure points for more than 2 hours. Using the left, back, and right technique, the patient should be turned and repositioned so that they do not develop areas of break skin breakdown because of being in the same position too long. Pillows should be applied in all the appropriate areas and then wedge pillows should be used to keep the individual turned in the right direction.

What are the Signs That Bed Sores are Starting?

The aide or caregiver should be vigilant in checking the skin for any red or irritated areas that feel warm to the touch. This can be a sign that a bedsores is starting. There can also be an open blister or sore that is painful to the touch with a discolored area around it. These can lead to a crater like impression that is caused by damage to the underlying skin which can lead to severe damage that can develop into infection. It is much easier to prevent skin breakdown then to cure it, so it is very important that care is taken in these areas. 

In Conclusion

When caring for low mobility individuals, it is important that you stay up-to-date on repositioning and transferring techniques so that you will not harm you or the individual. Make sure to ask the care team about any special instructions that may apply to that individual. Every person is different in the amount of care they need and it is important to understand what you're expected to do. Make sure to use proper lifting techniques so that you can help prevent injuries to yourself while performing transfers and repositions. The most important thing is make certain both you and the individual you are caring for are safe and comfortable. 



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