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Practical support

Moving and handling

If you look after someone with an illness or a disability, you may need to help them move around.

It's essential that you know about safe moving and handling so you don't hurt yourself or them.

For example, you may find that you need to help an ill or disabled person to:

  • get in or out of bed,
  • turn over in bed,
  • sit up in bed,
  • bathe,
  • shower,
  • use the toilet,
  • sit in a chair,
  • stand,
  • walk,
  • get up from the floor after a fall, or
  • get in and out of a vehicle.

Typical injuries

The most common injuries that carers experience are back injuries, which affect more than a million people in the UK. Injuring your back will limit your movement and your ability to care for someone. It could take a long time for you to recover.

Lifting someone incorrectly can also damage fragile skin, cause shoulder and neck injuries, increase existing breathing difficulties or cause bruising or cuts.

Lifting techniques

Before attempting to move someone, ask yourself:

  • Does the person need help to move?
  • Does the person require help or supervision?
  • Have you told the person you're moving them?
  • How heavy is the person you're moving?
  • Are you healthy and strong enough to move them?
  • Is there anyone who could help you?
  • How long will it take?
  • Is there enough space around you?
  • Are there any obstacles in the way?
  • Are you wearing suitable clothing and shoes? 

If you have assessed the situation and have decided to move the person, follow the advice below:

  • Never lift above shoulder height.
  • Make sure your feet are stable.
  • Take a firm hold.
  • Keep any weight close to your body.
  • Keep your back straight and bend your knees.
  • Lift as smoothly as possible.

Support services

If you find it difficult to help someone move around, your local authority has a responsibility to consider your needs as a carer and the needs of the person you care for.

Contact the local authority and ask for a community care assessment for the person you look after, as well as a carer’s assessment to help you. For advice and guidance on moving and handling, ask for an occupational therapy assessment. You may be given free specialist equipment to help you, such as hoists, stand aids, transfer boards or slide sheets. You may also be able to find free training courses, which will teach you safe handling methods.

Buying equipment

You may decide that you need specialist moving equipment. Before you buy any equipment, get advice from a healthcare professional such as an occupational therapist or a social worker.

Try all equipment before you buy it. If you're considering buying an expensive item, ask to use the equipment for a trial period in the home of the person you're looking after.

For information on equipment, contact the Disabled Living Foundation. Alternatively, find a Disabled Living Centre, through Assist UK, to view products and speak to someone about them.

Moving and handling courses

St John Ambulance runs a course on moving and handling people. It is for all carers who need to lift or handle people. It is four hours long and trains people how to move safely to reduce the risks associated with moving and handling. For further details on this course, call St John Ambulance on 08700 104950.

Local authority

Your local authority may run training courses in manual handling and may provide you with equipment to make caring for someone safer and easier. Your local authority has an obligation to help carers avoid health and safety risks. If your local authority doesn’t offer manual handling courses, ask for a direct payment so you can pay for a course of your choice.

Many charitable and independent carers’ organisations can help you find training courses for moving and handling.


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Last reviewed: 02/09/2009

Next review due: 02/09/2011

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