There is no doubt that providing care to nursing home residents is physically demanding work. Most nursing home residents require assistance to walk, bathe, or perform other normal daily activities, and this in turn can put physical strain upon nurses and staff that assist in aiding residents.
In many cases, residents are totally dependent upon caregivers for mobility, which means manual lifting and other tasks involving the repositioning of residents all of which are associated with an increased risk of pain and injury to caregivers. The majority of your clients that own nursing homes understand the effects of these risks and what it means from a workers compensation standpoint.
The risk factors that workers in nursing homes face include:
- Awkward postures that may result from leaning over a bed
- Lifting patients in and out of beds
- Shifting of weight that may occur if a resident loses balance, and
- Reduced strength while moving patients, or working in a confined area
These tasks can entail high physical demands due to long hours and constantly attending to a large census of residents. In addition, some staff members may suffer from repetitive stress issues, for example, performing the same motion or series of motions continually or frequently.
Excessive exposure to these risk factors can result in a variety of disorders in affected workers. These conditions are collectively referred to as musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs. MSDs include conditions such as low back pain, sciatica, rotator cuff injuries, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Early indications of MSDs can include persistent pain, restriction of joint movement, or soft tissue swelling.
The number and severity of injuries resulting from physical demands in nursing homes and associated costs can certainly be substantially reduced. Providing an alternative to manual resident lifting is the primary goal of the ergonomics process in the nursing home setting.
OSHA recommends that manual lifting of residents be minimized in all cases and eliminated when feasible. OSHA further recommends that employers develop a process for systematically addressing ergonomics issues in their facilities, and incorporate this process into an overall program, which will likely result in lowered workers compensation claims.