Stroke Recovery Tips: Transferring Safely from Your Bed to Wheelchair

Patient & Caregiver Resources Stroke

Following a stroke, some activities may require the aid of a caregiver. Learning techniques to make these tasks safer and easier helps protect the health of both the stroke survivor and the caregiver.

Encompass Health has joined with the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association to provide helpful information for stroke survivors and their caregivers, such as completing a successful bed-to-wheelchair transfer. It is important to note that this technique should only be used if the survivor can assist the caregiver with the transfer.

Steps for Transferring from Bed to Wheelchair

For safety, start by clearing clutter around the bed and wheelchair. If you will be assisting with the transfer, be sure to wear non-slip sturdy shoes. Position the wheelchair alongside the bed, placing it as close to the bed as possible on the survivor’s unaffected side. Once the wheelchair is in position, lock it and remove the armrest nearest the bed. To complete the transfer, follow the steps below:

  • Ask the stroke survivor to bend their knees and roll toward the caregiver. The caregiver can assist with this maneuver by placing a hand behind the shoulder of the survivor’s affected arm.
  • Using the unaffected arm, the survivor should push off the bed while swinging the legs over the side of the bed into a sitting position. It may be helpful for them to support their affected arm at this time.
  • Once sitting, allow time for the them to regain balance, then place a gait belt snuggly around the abdomen. The belt is for stability only and should not be used for lifting.
  • Before standing, the caregiver should position their feet in front of the person’s feet and brace his knees against their knees to prevent slipping and knee buckling.
  • At this point, the survivor should keep their nose over their toes and lean forward, bending at the hip to stand.
  • Transfer slowly into the wheelchair seat, backing up until the legs touch the edge of the seat.
  • Grasp the armrest with the unaffected arm and ease slowly into the wheelchair seat to avoid tipping. Once the person is safely seated, replace the wheelchair arm.