Ambulate With Assistance

nurse in green scrubs helping older woman walk the hallway

Written by:

Jeffrey Grossman


October 8, 2019

After a long period of hospitalization or immobility, patients can find it difficult to move freely and safely without assistance. Transfers and ambulation are helpful techniques to know, but a professional caregiver should be the one to provide support.


Transfers and Ambulation

As a family or professional caregiver, you may find yourself acting in place of a physical crutch for those in your care. You may help seniors sit down, stand up, walk, keep their balance, and move from one position to another. The physical strain put on you can be weighty and is potentially dangerous if not managed properly. 

Understanding transfers and ambulation for a variety of mobility needs is the job of a skilled caregiver. For some, ambulation is not possible and transfers are required. Let’s review these terms to give you a better grasp of both assistive methods.


What is a Transfer?

Transfers involve moving patients horizontally from one flat location to another (i.e. from a bed to a stretcher). In hospital settings, transfers are a more general term for relocating patients from one area or position to another. For example, moving a patient from their bed to a wheelchair and from their wheelchair to the toilet are common hospital transfers. 

To properly transfer an individual, at least three health care providers are required. Transferring requires patience, strength, and comprehensive knowledge about the individual’s physical condition(s). We will not be giving directions in this blog on how to perform a transfer, but caregivers can read more about the steps of a patient transfer here.

Please note that transfers should be performed by professional caregivers or health care providers only. 


What is Ambulation?

Ambulation is commonly mistaken with mobility, but they are in fact different. Mobility is movement in general, such as moving one’s limbs or experiencing a range of motion in the joints. Ambulation, on the other hand, specifically relates to walking without assistance. To ambulate with assistance means to help an individual get on their feet and start walking with the help of someone else or something.

For those who are bedridden for a time post-surgery or due to a chronic condition, assisted ambulation is especially necessary. After a period of immobility, whether that be during recovery from an operation or a long-term illness, the body can become stiff, weak, and the muscles may atrophy.


Ambulation with Assistance

The first, most crucial step to assisting with ambulation is assessing the older adult’s physical state. Caregivers must gauge the patient’s ability to move, current pain levels or injuries, and understand any assistive devices that may be used in the process.

As a family caregiver or professional caregiver, familiarize yourself with the walking equipment of those in your care, including wheelchairs, walkers, canes, etc. Walking equipment is there to make the ambulation process easier, but working around them can be a bit of a dance.


Benefits of Ambulation

Keep in mind, not all ambulation requires an assistive device. Successful ambulation requires slow and steady movement with the help of a caring individual. Be aware that each new movement can cause dizziness or imbalance, so check in regularly while assisting an older adult to ambulate.

Helping older adults move and walk after a procedure improves their blood circulation, increases appetite, and enables them to recover quicker. Studies have shown that older adults who practice early ambulation after a surgical procedure are discharged 2 days earlier than those who do not.


How Can Commonwise Home Care Help?

Remember, professional caregivers and Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) are required to take courses on transfers and ambulation. The process of safely transferring an individual takes a minimum of three people and ambulation may require additional devices. Be very careful if you are an at-home or family caregiver attempting to help a loved one ambulate with assistance.

At Commonwise Home Care, our professional caregivers are trained in the various services required for in home care, such as ambulation. We equip our caregivers to provide care for older adults with a range of debilitating medical conditions. Home care management services provide support for seniors and take the weight off of family members who do not have the expertise to care for their needs.

In home caregivers assist seniors with day to day activities from meal preparation to medication monitoring. One of the primary benefits of an in home caregiver is their gift of companionship to older adults. Don’t care alone, let Commonwise Home Care serve you and your loved one with professional, personal support. For more information on the Commonwise Home Care difference, call 434.202.8565.


Disclaimer: Please check with your physician before making any changes to your diet, exercise, or medication routine.