Chapter 3: Help with mobility and movement

Moving from a bed to a chair

Mom used to say that the change of scenery from sitting up in her chair rather than being in bed gave her a change in perspective.

It is important to help person who is ill move if possible, as this not only helps with pressure sores but also with fluid buildup. If they are able to sit in a chair, the person who is ill will likely enjoy the change and may feel better if receiving visitors. Click on each phrase below to review the steps involved.

  1. If the bed can be raised, raise the bed to slightly above chair height.
  2. If there are wheels on the bed, make sure they are locked.
  3. Let the person know that you will be raising them up in bed first. Raise the bed or gently place pillows behind them to raise them into as close to a sitting position as they can manage.
  4. Ensure both you and the person who is ill have non-slip footwear on.
  5. Move the wheelchair as close to the bed as possible and make sure there are no obstacles between the bed and the chair. Ensure the wheels of the chair are locked, the foot petals have been turned up or removed, and any other equipment you need is readily available. For example, a cane can help the person who is ill support themselves, so not all their weight is on you.

Move the person’s legs over the side of the bed and help them sit up on the side of the bed. Make sure their feet are firmly on the floor (and able to reach the floor).

  1. Move slowly and allow the time to adjust to the position changes.
  2. Place their hands on the edge of the bed or on the arm rest of the chair, and instruct them to push up when you count to three.
  3. Face the person who is ill and place your feet about shoulder width apart on the outside of the person’s legs.
  4. Standing as close as you can, bend your knees and move toward them.
  5. Put your arms around their back, enclosing their arms.
  6. Count to three and stand up with the person and be sure to use your legs, not your back.
  7. Wait a few seconds to make sure the person is not dizzy. Turn together and pivot until their back is facing the chair where they will be sitting.
  8. Shuffle backwards until they can feel the chair. Encourage them to place their hands on the arms of the chair. Then lower together until the patient is sitting in the chair.

*The technique for getting the person who is ill back into bed is the exact reverse of this. 

Watch the video for a demonstration and tips on moving the person who is ill from a bed to a wheelchair.

Moving from Bed to Wheelchair from Canadian Virtual Hospice on Vimeo.

What may help

It is less difficult to get someone back into bed before they are exhausted, so you may want to check with them to see when they are starting to feel tired.

If the person cannot stand on their own, it is NOT safe to use the above technique. You may consider using a transfer board or a mechanical lift, or you will need two people to assist the person who is ill. Speak with your healthcare team about the best options.