Mobility/Physical Disability

I’m caring for someone with mobility issues

Mobility issues may be caused by any number of things, including trauma such as a car accident or fall, a stroke, a degenerative disease such as ALS, or other chronic health condition such as arthritis. Being a caregiver to someone who has mobility issues, no matter the cause, comes with a unique set of challenges.

You may be required to help your care recipient:

  • get in and out of the tub or shower or give sponge baths in bed 
  • get into or out of a bed or chair or help them turn or roll over in bed 
  • use the toilet or bedpans or change incontinence pads
  • brush their teeth, keep lips moist or rinse their mouth 
  • wash their hair, moisturize skin and trim their nails

It’s important to determine what you are and aren’t comfortable doing. Be honest with yourself and the person you’re caring for about what you can realistically do.

Caregiver tip:

Look into what home care services are available where you live. Home care staff can help with bathing and also teach you tasks like how to turn someone in bed. Be sure to ask about getting assistive devices such as a walker, lift, wheelchair, shower chair, grab bar or portable commode. 

  • Tips for addressing mobility barriers around the home:
    • Install non-slip mats in the bathroom and kitchen
    • Remove any objects that could be a tripping hazard
    • Make sure there are adequate handrails in the bath tub or shower and next to the toilet
    • Make sure furniture is not crowded together in a way obstruct their walker or wheelchair
    • If you need to assist with climbing stairs, walk behind them. Keep your hand on their shoulders or on a belt to help them keep their balance
    • Look into installing a chair lift
  • Tips for moving a person with physical limitations:

    It’s important to not take on more than you can handle and to be aware of your own safety as well as theirs. If you cannot transfer or move someone without hurting yourself, get help.

    To avoid injury:

    • Always spread your feet shoulder-width apart
    • Bend with your knees; not your lower back
    • Use your stomach and leg muscles to help lift
    • Try to keep your shoulders and neck muscles relaxed
    • Try to avoid twisting your body
    • Move your feet with your whole body when turning or pivoting, and re-position to maintain stability
  • Tips for maintaining dignity:
    • Some people who use a mobility aid, such as a wheelchair, walker or cane, see these aids as part of their personal space. Be sure to respect his/her personal space – don’t touch, move or lean on the device without their consent
    • If the person is resistant to being moved, try to postpone the task if possible. This will help give them a sense of control
    • Before moving someone, let them know what you are trying to do. For example, “I would like to help you sit up now.”
  • Tips for helping with food and eating:
    • Consult with your family member’s doctor, dietician, occupational therapist or speech-language pathologist
    • If your family member has trouble swallowing, plan for food that is softer or smoother, such as porridge, apple sauce, and mashed potatoes; chop or mince food into smaller pieces; puree food in a blender
    • When eating, have your family member sit up straight in a bed or chair
    • Have your family member take small bites. Try using a teaspoon rather than a tablespoon
    • Your family member should chew each mouthful thoroughly before swallowing
    • Small, frequent meals may be easier to eat and digest
    • Look into assistive devices, such as dishes with gripper pads, cutting utensils made for one-hand use and modified cups
  • Get help:

    Not sure where to start? Call our 24/7 helpline or talk to us in our live chat to find resources in your community.