​Caregivers Care for Your Back

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on October 31, 2021 # Caregiving

To my fellow caregivers, after lifting my quadriplegic son for over a decade, I know that protecting my back is more important than I gave thought to early on, even though I was advised to be careful. After my boy broke his neck in 2010, becoming a C-4 quadriplegic, I went into caregiver mode to care for his needs. We left the hospital with a borrowed wheelchair and nothing else.

After three months in the hospital, my family and I started what we called the two-man lift when we were back home. Exactly what it sounds like. If two people were home, we would simply lift him—bed to wheelchair, wheelchair to bed, bed to commode chair and so on. Since we have a family of six, there are usually people available. After the long nine-month wait, we ended up with a movable Hoyer lift, but unfortunately, by then, our two-man lift had become normal and so quick compared to this lift that it seemed to take way too long. I hate to say it, but our brand new lift to collect dust and a good clothes rack, eventually we gave it to another family who had a paralyzed family member.

Round standing diskWe continued to use our method, adding in a one-man lift. We had caregivers throughout the decade, and we own a slide transfer board and a round standing disc. Both these items have been used from time to time. They are worth looking into because they work well for some people depending on the situation. I could tell my back had weakened, but I continued my way of lifting. There were lots of times I would need to get out the back brace and wear it for a few days. This is also an item that seems to help me. The smart thing would be to wear it most of the time. Caregiving for me is all the bending and twisting that messes with my lower back. There have been times my back simply said no more, and I could hardly move. This finally forced me to look back into other ways of moving my son.

We went through insurance and were approved for another Hoyer lift. My husband chose a manual pump style to not have to deal with any electric glitches. I would have chosen the electric one. The new lift arrived but sat there looking overwhelming until someone said, let’s just use the lift one day. That was it. We just started using it after 11 years of manual lifting. It took a few tries to get used to the process and it was slower, but it’s a back saver for sure.

Caregiving means taking care of another person’s needs, but you’re not going to be a good caregiver if you don’t care for yourself. I heard this so many times but just couldn’t seem to put that into action. I got used to doing things a certain way and did not want to try to change, even if it meant it wasn’t good for me.

Don’t wait a decade or until your back goes out. Do what is best for your body. If you have a Hoyer lift, use it. If you are not able to get one, look into the other things I mentioned earlier. The slide transfer board, standing disc and invest in back support I use a velcro style; I bought at Home Depot. I hope this simple reminder and options can help any of you, caregivers, out there. Take care of yourself as you’d care for your loved one.

My life has had many parts, I could write a book just on that section but let's fast forward to when I married Adron Collie. Two weeks after turning 20 (yes, very young!) I had Zackery at age 22, Levi at 24, six years later Kaden, and 18 months after that daughter Laila, making me a busy mother of four. At that time, I also ran a photography business. The year Zack was injured I had a child in Preschool, Elementary, Jr. High and High School. Four kids in four schools! I thought I was so busy, just getting their drop-off and pick-up times correct was a challenge. I have to laugh now thinking back on that because little did I know my life was just about to turn upside down.

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