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Caregiving 101
Health

How to Transfer a Patient from Bed to Wheelchair

Written by CircleOf Staff
October 22, 2021
How to Transfer a Patient from Bed to Wheelchair
Table of Contents

It takes strength and coordination to be able to move in and out of a wheelchair from a bed. Some people can do this on their own, but others will need assistance. There are step-by-step processes to help caregivers prepare for 'the transfer' and learn how to position themselves so no one gets hurt.

Safety Preparation

The goal is to minimize potential risk factors so check the equipment, the surroundings and get agreement from the person you are assisting. Safety is of utmost importance when transferring fragile or vulnerable people from a bed to a wheelchair.

Review this quick list to BEFORE you start the transfer of an elderly or fragile person from one place to another.

  1. Establish clear communication between you both
  2. Survey the surroundings and remove all obstacles
  3. Know the patient's core strength, weight, size and abilities:-Can they stand or bear weight? -Can they walk or balance? -Can they speak or give you cues?
  4. Know your strength, abilities and what you cannot do
  5. Know the wheelchair equipment, its capacity and limitations: -Do the brakes work? -Are there features that aid wheelchair transfer?-Is the wheelchair electric, transport or manual?
  6. Is there additional medical equipment to help like a shift or gait belt?
  7. Make sure they have shoes or skid-proof socks on

General Considerations

Practice

  • Practice first under the supervision of a more experienced caregiver to ensure smooth transfers.

Space

  • Get the wheelchair is as close as possible to where you are moving the person, to lessen the strain on the muscles during the move.

Strength

  • When transferring from bed to wheelchair, do if on the stronger side of the person’s body to prevent falling.

Lock

  • Keep the wheelchair locked while a person is moving in or out of it to reduce the risk of accidents.

Move

  • A foot pedal or leg rest can catch on clothing or limbs; move them out of the way.

Bend

  • Bend your knees while transferring to protect your back.
A young woman walking outside with a senior man in a wheelchair

How to transfer a person if they can stand

The core strength of the patient determines the process of how they are transferred to a wheelchair. There are different techniques depending on the abilities of the person who is being moved.

Step 1 : Prepare for the transfer

Move the wheelchair directly next to the surface of the bed. You can opt for a slight angle around 30-45 degrees. Lock the brakes and move any possible obstruction out of the way. Communicate clearly with the person you are transferring so that you can make adjustments depending on their condition.

Step 2: Sit them up

Explain what you’re about to do clearly to the person you’re transferring, so that there are no surprises. Once everything is set, turn them on their side so that they’re facing the wheelchair.

Next, support their neck by putting an arm under their neck, with your hand supporting the shoulder blade. Then put your other hand under the knees. Swing the legs over the edge of the bed, so that they’re sitting up.

Step 3: Help them stand

First, let them scoot to the edge of the bed. Then, help them put on skid-proof socks or shoes to prevent them from slipping. Once done, put your arms around the chest and clasp your hands behind their back.

Alternatively, you may also use a transfer belt for a firmer handhold. Lean back, shift your weight, and then lift them up from the bed until their feet are firmly on the ground.

Step 4: Pivot toward the wheelchair

Continue to clasp your hands around the patient while having them pivot toward the wheelchair. If there’s another caregiver present, have them support either the wheelchair or the patient from behind.

If you have a gait belt, place it on the patient for better grip during the transfer. As they are turning, the person being transferred can either hold onto you or reach for the wheelchair for balance.

Step 5: Sit them down

As soon as their legs are touching the seat of the wheelchair, bend your knees to help lower them into the seat.

If there is another caregiver, they can help position the buttocks of the person being transferred and keep the chair stable. Reposition the foot and arm rests. Lastly help them shuffle in their seat to get positioned comfortably.

Transferring a patient from the bed to the wheelchair is just one of the many responsibilities a caregiver has to navigate daily if they are helping someone who cannot walk on their own.

Additional help

CircleOf, is a private, secure, collaboration mobile first app.

We are designed by and made for caregiver support. With the app in hand, caregivers manage activities of daily living (ADL) tasks, stay in communication with their care circles, privately share information, and coordinate care.

Caregiving is managing to a plan as we see in the example above, there are considerations and process of transferring a person from a bed to a wheelchair.

References

MedlinePlus - Moving a patient from bed to a wheelchair

Transfer—Bed to Wheelchair

Pivot Transfer: Wheelchair to Bed

How to make a safe wheelchair transfer - videos included

A senior woman using a pull up bar to assist her getting out of bed. A caregiver offers support on her back and arm for safety.

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