Learning to lift safely

Jeanne Davis on her involvement in setting up
a new project to help carers lift safely and avoid injury.

“This is a very simple way of moving a person
who has fallen,” says Jan Williams, injury prevention
physiotherapist. “Try it.” I look at the blue plastic sheet laid
out on the floor, about six feet long and three feet wide with
handling ropes at either end. “Now you put this next to the person
who has fallen on the floor and roll him on to it. You kneel to
reduce the back strain, grasp the handles and pull.”

No way could I have done this, I think to
myself. My husband, who suffered from Parkinson’s, would from time
to time lose his balance and fall. I never could turn him over
successfully nor would I have been able to pull him with my creaky
knees along the floor. He was taller than me and four stone

The blue sheet is one of many aids in the
Disabled Living Centre in west London. I have been asked to help
test equipment for a pilot project to help carers avoid crippling
injuries while looking after a partner, parent, child, relative or

Along with a group of other service users, I
am being asked my opinion by professionals on the service and its
implementation. This innovative carers injury prevention service is
the brainchild of Alison Katerji, director of Westminster Carers
Service, a local voluntary organisation that offers free respite
and support to carers. She says: “I see a number of women who need
to lift their disabled children. They don’t notice that over the
years the child is getting past the point when he can be safely
lifted. I see many of these women with back and neck problems. But
they say, ‘mustn’t grumble’ and get on with it.”

The injury prevention service is unique
because a trained physiotherapist will go into the home and assess
the risks of injuries related to moving and handling, advise carers
on safe handling practices, and discuss general health The physio
will return to the house periodically to retrain, answer problems,
and help provide suitable equipment.

Fortunately, one local community health
service trust, the Riverside Trust, decided to take on the project
and obtained the funding from the local primary care group.

As a consultant user, I was invited to be one
of the interviewing team to select the first carers
physiotherapist, whose prime responsibility would be to get the
project up and running, and to develop and deliver a cohesive
service. Sounds simple? I was handed a three-page job description.
The candidate would possess a high level of clinical expertise as a
therapist, educator, consultant and adviser in moving and handling,
back care and health promotion. Jan Williams was our clear first

If successful, our pilot programme could be
developed throughout the UK.

And did the project staff listen to us users?
Yes, Jan told me. The blue sheet to move the fallen person, she
decided, was going to be too risky, involving the carer in too much
handling. It will need a rethink.

Jeanne Davis is a user consultant and
a volunteer worker. The carers injury prevention service can be
contacted on 020 7352 6387 or

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