People often underestimate the physical demands of being a caregiver. Housekeeping, running errands, garden and yard work, lifting and transferring clients, and being on your feet for hours all add up and take a toll on a caregiver’s physical well-being. Since caregiving requires a lot of mental and emotional focus on the needs of clients, it is easy for caregivers to forget to take much needed breaks for themselves.
Self-care for caregivers is a cornerstone of providing quality home care services. If a caregiver starts suffering from compassion fatigue or burnout, their ability to work is sure to suffer as well. One of the most common physical ailments, and often the first one to show up as a warning sign, is back pain. The bending, twisting, frequent lifting, standing for long periods of time, and failure to rest cause pain and injury to the spine. A study in the International Journal of Caring Sciences discovered that 58% of caregivers polled experienced low back pain. Numbers like this may seem high, but back pain does not need to be the fate of every caregiver. With self-care, healthy routines, and following these home care tips, caregivers can provide home care services while protecting their back.
Practice Safe Lifting Techniques
This home care tip is particularly important. Transferring and lifting techniques should always be part of core caregiving training. Reputable home care agencies will provide annual training updates in case caregivers need a refresher on how to properly lift clients. A mistake that is sometimes made is thinking that lifting protocols do not need to be followed for clients who are small in stature, but all it takes is one wrong move to tweak your back. Proper transferring and lifting need to be practiced at all times, even across small distances or for short durations. Caregivers can prevent back injuries by following lifting protocols when carrying and transporting heavy objects, too.
Take Regular Breaks
Caregiving is more physically demanding than many other jobs, so the standard 15 minute break every 2-3 hours does not apply. Taking micro breaks of 1-3 minutes each hour to sit and breathe and lightly stretch can help alleviate back pain and prevent injuries. Small hourly breaks can benefit a caregiver’s emotional and mental well-being too! Caregivers can take this home care tip even further by asking clients to join them in short breathing exercises and stretching. Use standard work breaks to stretch and rest even further rather than trying to cram in errands or other activities.
Even with regular breaks and following caregiving protocols, muscle tension and sore joints can occur. Rather than waiting until the pain becomes unmanageable, treat the first signs of pain or injury as soon as possible. Treatment can involve seeing your primary care physician, physical therapy, taking up Yoga classes, or getting a monthly massage. Some health insurance plans include massage and physical therapy in their coverage, so always check before you pay out of pocket for services.
Exercise Your Core
A strong core is one of the best ways to protect the spinal cord, back, and general musculoskeletal frame. Regular, core strengthening exercise is not a requirement for caregivers but it will make the job a whole lot easier. A strong core also helps correct poor posture, which is something caregivers can develop due to the physical demands of caregiving. Exercising can consist of small goals and short increments a few times a week or a more rigorous exercise plan if that is preferred. If clients have the mobility, caregivers and clients can even exercise together. This is often more enjoyable for the client, if they usually perform exercises alone. Exercising together can provide motivation for clients and help them reach target goals.
Bodies need hydration in order to function at optimal levels. Dehydration affects every part of the body and increases the risk for injury. Not drinking enough water while providing home care services can cause stiff joints and fatigued muscles, which can lead to back pain and injuries. Staying hydrated will improve a caregiver’s general well-being, too. Have a bottle of water on hand or full glasses of water available throughout shifts as a reminder to drink water more often. Clients sometimes have a difficult time staying hydrated themselves, which means that drinking more water is an opportunity for caregivers to lead by example.
With some due diligence and following these home care tips, caregivers can prevent back pain and injury. It’s best to always check in with your home care agency if the physical demands of home care services get too tough. A reputable home care agency will work to ensure that both the needs of their clients and their home caregivers are prioritized.
Got questions about home care services? Contact Alegre Home Care at one of our Northern California locations.