Transferring Tips

Cheat Sheet: 6 Ways To Avoid Getting Hurt While Transferring

During a transfer, reduce your strain and likelihood of getting injured by directing your care recipient in using as many of their abilities as they can.

Elderly woman getting out of bed

1. Promote Participation

During a transfer, reduce your strain and likelihood of getting injured by directing your care recipient in using as many of their abilities as they can. For example, if they are able, asking them to:

  • Turn to their side
  • Lift or shift legs, arms, or their bottom
  • Hold onto a bed rail or transfer pole
  • Move to the edge of their bed
  • Reach for a grab bar or arm rest

Remember to give them enough time to respond to your request. A good rule of
thumb is up to a minute and a half.

2. Clear Communication

Always let your care recipient know the next step of the transfer. Make eye contact, and use simple language, stating only one step at a time. For example, say “I will place your hand to your side.” This can promote participation and decrease confusion and resistance.

If you have another person that is helping you with the transfer, it is highly recommended that you clearly communicate the transfer steps you have completed to each other, and to count down together before lifting or moving the person together.

3. Slow Down

This might seem obvious, but a surprising amount of injuries happen because of rushing. By slowing down your transfer you can:

  • More clearly communicate each step of the transfer, reducing the likelihood of resistance.
  • Help put your care recipient more at ease during the transfer as they have more time to process the steps.
  • Be more aware and careful of your positioning to keep your body safe from strain or injury.
  • Be more aware of mishaps as they are happening, as you have more time to process hazards and address them proactively.

4. Avoid Reaching

Our bodies are strongest when we are standing up straight with our arms close to our body. Reaching forward or sideways can strain your core and your back.

  • Handle only the side of your care recipient’s body that you are standing by. Move to the other side of their bed or chair to handle the other side.
  • For bed transfers, raise or lower their bed so that it is to your hip height. You can do this electronically with a hospital bed, or by adding or removing a mattress box. This will ensure you aren’t straining your body by reaching high or bending low. Even a couple inches too low or high can make an impact on your body, especially when you are completing these transfers often.

5. Step, Don’t Twist

You may be automatically twisting your body to reach for something beside or behind you. Make an intentional effort to step to the side, or step and turn your whole body. Twisting your spine can cause great strain over time.

6. Use Equipment To Make It Easier

Here are equipment and tool ideas to make transfers easier, safer, and reduce
strain on your body:

  • Sliding sheet. Sliding sheets can be placed under your care recipient in bed, and even in their wheelchair, to help with easier repositioning and transfers. You can also opt for using a large towel, a bed sheet, a thin blanket, or an incontinence bed pad. To turn your care recipient or reposition them higher, lower, or closer to a side, simply pull on one side of the sheet.
  • Grab bars, bed rails, or transfer poles. These can encourage your care recipient’s participation in the transfer if they are able to hold on for repositioning, stabilization, or pulling up, which can result in less effort needed from your body.
  • Hospital bed. A hospital bed or a motorized bed can be raised or lowered to your hip height. This will help reduce strain on your body by avoiding a high or low reach, or prolonged bending in your spine while helping with the transfer.


Always ask for help from another person if you’re experiencing physical strain or injury during transfers. Contact an occupational therapist who can provide personalized advice on safe  transfers, equipment, and strategies that may be helpful for you.

Additional Resources

  • Safety Systems

    Predict The Risk: 50 Safety Checks To Do Today

  • Caregiver assisting senior man out of bed

    Dementia and Skills for Responding to Communication Changes

  • Elderly woman driving

    Care Chat: Dementia & Driving

  • Caregiver helping with aggressive behavior

    Dementia and Aggressive Behavior