by Linda J. Austin


Gary was helping his wife from her bed to the recliner (about six steps from the bed) as I prepared lunch. The bungalow was cozy - living room and kitchen combined. The living room had now become Anne's bedroom. "Linda! Help!"

One step shy of the recliner Anne's knees buckled and Gary was trying to keep her upright. "It's okay." I said, "Help her down to the floor." I got a blanket, wrapped it around Anne, sat on the floor next to her, rubbed her back. "I knew I shouldn't have gotten out of bed. I never know which part of me is going to give out next. It's not the dying I mind, it's all the things I lose every day getting there."


Anne was discouraged. Gary was frightened. And I was trying to speak softly although I wanted to scream. I did scream the first time Anne's legs gave out - it happened my third day with her. Anne and I were the only ones in the house. In nurse assistant training I was taught: "Don't try to catch them when they fall, ease them to the floor gently, then call for help." As I helped Anne to sit on the floor, the visiting nurse was walking up the driveway. "I need some help in here" I bellowed as softly as I could.

Anne was more fragile now than when the nurse and I had helped her up. There was no way Gary and I would be able to get Anne back into bed or into her chair.

Gary called a volunteer from the ambulance service who came to our aid. We helped Anne lie down on the floor, spread a sturdy bedspread out on the floor beside her. Anne then rolled onto the bedspread. The three of us - lifted Anne in this makeshift sling and put her back into bed.

Our first impulse when someone begins to fall, is to reach out and grab. This automatic response can injure the caregiver as well as the patient.

If a person has the strength to pull themselves up into a standing position -here are a couple of things you can do to help.

Face the patient. Stand with your feet about a foot to a foot and a half apart - this is for your balance. Do not pull on the patient. Bend your arm (only one will do) at the elbow and hold it in front of your chest. The patient should grasp your arm and pull himself up. It may take a few tries, especially if people are scared or upset. That's okay. Sit on the floor and talk, rest, breathe, try again.

It has been suggested that a wheelchair in the locked position is something else a person can use to pull themself up to a standing position. I've never tried this. If you do try this, make sure you hold onto the chair to counterbalance the weight so the chair does not fall over onto the patient.


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