Helpful Tips for Lifting a Bed-Bound Person Safely

If you're caring for someone who is bed bound or is otherwise unable to move, you'll find that you need to lift them often, but you may be wondering how to do so safely.

Nurse positioning man in bed
LPETTET / Getty Images

Lifting a person can be hard work and physically demanding. Doing it properly can protect both you and your loved one from injury and anxiety. Learn how to lift bed-bound people in a stress-free manner with this tutorial. After you've read these tips, you should be able to carry out this process with confidence.

You'll Need a Lift Buddy

It takes about one to five minutes to lift a person from a bed, but the key is not to execute the task alone but to always have a "lift buddy" to help you when you're lifting. Don't attempt to lift an individual without the help of at least one other person.

Why should you get a lift buddy? Having a helper will help you protect your back from injury. It will also help protect your loved one from injury to their skin that can occur as a result of friction.

Make the lift buddy a reliable person whom you count on to be there for you and your loved one in need. It could be a spouse, a sibling, a child or another close family member or friend of the family.​

Why Drawsheets Help

Use a drawsheet to assist you. To make a drawsheet, fold a flat sheet in half lengthwise twice. Position the sheet under the person being lifted so that his entire bottom and lower to mid back are on the sheet. Learning how to change a diaper or bed sheet can help you get the drawsheet under the person easily.

Then, grab one side of the drawsheet as close to the person's body as possible and have your lift buddy do the same on the opposite side. If you have more than one person to help you, first thank your lucky stars and proceed to ask one of the helpers to hold the person's ankles and the other one to hold the patient's head.

Designate one person to count to three. On the count of three, lift the patient off the bed and up towards the top. Try to lift the person completely off the bed to prevent injury to their skin as a result of friction.

How to Position the Patient

Position the patient properly to prevent them from sliding down in bed. Begin by lifting the person in bed so that their head is at the top. Then, turn the person to the side and use a pillow to place under the drawsheet at the person's back. Place another pillow between the person's knees and another to prop her arms up.

If they will stay on their back, lift the foot of the bed enough to bend the knees. Place another pillow under the ankles with the heels off the end to ease the pressure on them. Use pillows to place under the person's head and arms for comfort.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Lifting Techniques for Home Caregivers.

  2. Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Friction and Shearing Skin Injury.

By Angela Morrow, RN
Angela Morrow, RN, BSN, CHPN, is a certified hospice and palliative care nurse.