Updated June 22, 2022 – So, you’re planning to drive your elderly parents around when they need to leave the house or their assisted living facility. The only problem is you have no idea how to safely help older adults into the passenger seat without aggravating painful conditions and possibly causing injuries.
Follow these steps for how to get an elderly person into a car:
- Ensure the area around the car is safe
- Wear shoes with a good grip
- Space your feet so they’re at shoulder width
- Keep an upright stance, hold the upper half of your body straight
- Lean into the senior, using your knees (bend them) and hips to lift them
- Let your forearms bear the brunt of the weight during the transfer
- Use car aids to make transfers safer
In this article, we will explain in more detail the exact steps to assist a senior as they climb into a car. Whether they’re wheelchair users, they’ve recently had a stroke, or it’s just another day with your senior family member, you can get them comfortable in the passenger seat sooner by using these steps.
How To Get Elderly Into An SUV
If your elderly parent(s) need help getting into an SUV – read on.
Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are large vehicles. They might provide a comfortable ride, but they’re not the easiest vehicle to get into, even if you are young and spry, much less for a senior citizen with more limited mobility. To get into one, you typically have to climb a tall step or two to reach the interior of the vehicle.
While we do recommend one SUV in the section at the end of this article, you’ll definitely need a car aid or two if you expect your senior to regularly get into an SUV like this.such vehicles.
That said, we have a great post on car aids that you should check out if you missed it. Car cane standing aids and a rotation / swivel seat can really come in handy as your senior attempts the arduous climb into an SUV.
Okay, so how exactly do you begin that process? To answer that question, we first want to talk more about the steps we covered in the intro, as they’ll allow you to get elderly people into almost any vehicle. However, you may have to change your approach somewhat for an SUV.
Steps On How To Get Someone Into A High Vehicle Like An SUV
Step 1: Make sure there’s nothing around the SUV that your senior can trip over or slip on. It’s also a good idea to ensure that you also have easy access to get your senior into the vehicle. After all, if you fall and hurt yourself, then nobody is going anywhere.
Step 2: For safety purposes, you should always choose footwear with good traction, especially non-slip soles.
Step 3: Position your body correctly. You want to keep your feet at shoulder width, bracing them firmly, but not tensing the muscles too much.
Step 4: Watch the positioning of the upper half of your body. Your torso, especially your back, neck, and head, should remain mostly straight. Otherwise, you could hurt yourself.
Step 5: Move at the knees and hips. Your knees should bend while your hips are angled towards the senior.
Step 6: As you approach the senior and begin lifting them up, you’ll want to put more weight and pressure on the forearms than on the hands.
Step 7: Let your legs do the brunt of the work instead of your back. You should keep your spine straight and never rotate or twist it during lifting. If you need to move your body, then pivot with your feet.
Step 8: Rely on any of the car aids we talked about before, such as a pivot disc or sturdy step stools. They can be your best friend and help you avoid some of the heavy lifting involved in helping your senior in the vehicle.
How Do You Transfer A Patient (Elderly Person) Into A Car
The steps on how to help a senior person into a car depends on the answers to a few questions:
- How mobile are they?
- Are they using a cane or a walker?
- Are they in a wheel chair?
- Can they assist you at all in the transfer?
- Can they follow directions?
- Do they have any special equipment? (i.e. oxygen tank)
How To Get A Wheelchair-Bound Person Into A Car
It can be hard enough to assist semi-mobile older people into a car, but what if your senior parent or loved one is in a wheelchair? Now you have a whole other obstacle to deal with – in the form of the chair.
Here are the steps to follow to make the transition process from wheelchair to car that much easier:
Step 1:Prepare as much room in the backseat or trunk as possible. Remember, this time you’re not just toting your senior around in the car, but their wheelchair as well. While many wheelchairs can fold or compact, they still take up room.
Step 2:Use a gait belt or transfer belt if you can. This can help to prevent injuries to both yourself and your senior, while making it safer for them to be transferred from the wheelchair to the car.
Step 3:Position yourself so your back is leaning against the open door of the car. Then grab the wheelchair, pulling it towards you (your senior should still be in the chair at this point).
Step 4:Make sure to lock the wheelchair in place so it does not roll away during the transfer.
Step 5:Remove the wheelchair armrest closest to the car and fold away the footrests.
Step 6:If your senior loved one is not able to stand or help you in any way (they are dead weight) I recommend that you also use a transfer board which is placed with one end on the wheelchair (under his/her buttocks) and the other end on the seat of the car. (more instructions on this below)
Step 7:Place your feet so they’re firmly on the ground. Ask your senior to use your body as a brace (if they can do so) to get up from their wheelchair.
Step 8:Moving your body without twisting your spine, begin to put your senior in the vehicle – rear end (rump) first. Or, slide him/her on the transfer board from the wheelchair to the car.
Step 9:Get the senior into a sitting position, then tuck their head into the car by placing your hand on top of it, so they don’t bump it on the door or car frame.
Step 10:Pivot the senior’s body around so their legs are facing forward rather than out of the car. (NOTE: A swivel cushion is a good option and would let you skip this step. You can just angle the cushion forward instead.)
Step 11:If you used a transfer board, you can now remove it.
Step 12:Strap on the seat belts and you’re good to go.
Sliding Boards – Transferring With Board Into Car
In some cases, whether your senior is in a wheelchair or not, you may opt to use a slide transfer board. This equipment is used to bridge the gap between spaces. The senior slides along the transfer board to reach Point B from Point A.
These boards are best for seniors who have little leg strength, have lost use of their legs or who are unable to help you in the transfer.
You must make sure you choose a sliding board that’s appropriate for your senior. Triple-check that the board can support your senior’s weight (you might need a bariatric transfer board like this one that can hold up to 600 pounds).
Also, before they ever personally use the board, confirm that it’s long enough to get your senior from their wheelchair to the car.
Once you’re confident with all that, here’s how to use a transfer board to get your senior into the car.
Step 1: Wheel your senior up to the car in their wheelchair, stopping the chair at an angle of at least 30 degrees. You can also position the chair up to 45 degrees.
Step 2: Ensure the brakes of the wheelchair are locked. Lift the armrests if they are moveable.
Step 3: Gently ease your senior forward but still keep them on the chair. Now they’re closer to the wheelchair’s edge. Their feet should be able to touch the ground or floor.
Step 4: If your senior can, ask them to move their weight to the side opposite the one you’re going to use the sliding board on. Then, position the sliding board beneath the senior’s rear or thigh. You only want 1/3rd of the board under them at this point.
Step 5: Let the senior scoot themselves forward on the board. You can brace them as they do this. From there, your senior should be able to scoot further along and into the car.
Step 6: Once the senior is sitting on the seat of the car, tuck their head into the car by placing your hand on top of it, so they don’t bump it on the door or car frame.
Step 7: Pivot the elder’s body around so their legs are facing forward rather than out of the car. A swivel cushion, if your car has one, allows you to skip this step and just angle the cushion forward instead.
Step 8: Strap on your senior’s seat belt and you’re ready to depart.
How Do You Transfer A Stroke Patient From A Wheelchair To A Car?
If your senior parent or other loved one has had a stroke and they’re wheelchair-bound, transferring them to the car doesn’t differ that much from the steps we covered above.
It simply depends on how much help they can give you and if they are able to follow your directions during the transfer.
A transfer board may be useful, but again, every patient who has had a stroke is different so I would recommend that you consult with a physical or occupational therapist to help you assess the best transfer tools for your loved one.
We recommend going very slowly and checking in with your senior after every step of the transfer process.
What Is The Best Car For Elderly Passengers?
If you’re looking for a new car and you’re going to help your senior parent or loved one into and out of it regularly, then you want to make sure the process is as simple as possible.
For the easiest entry, the door sills should be lower than the ones on an average car. You also want large / wide door openings so you have lots of room to help your older passenger get inside.
Additionally, you’ll need enough storage space in the rear or trunk to accommodate the walker or wheelchair if the older person has mobility issues, either now or in the future.
Lastly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends checking to be sure there will be enough space in the garage, driveway, or parking lot at home to accommodate the new car (or accessible van) and also while opening the car door for loading or unloading a wheelchair or other assistive device.
These are our picks for the best cars for older drivers:
- Cadillac XTS – which has especially generous rear doors
- GMC Acadia – a vehicle with multiple rows of seats
- Nissan Versa Note – as it includes rear seats that can fold down for even more room
- Honda CR-V – which has sliding and folding seat options as well
- Toyota Camry – a car that’s renowned for easily letting passengers in and out
- Chrysler 300 – which has powered seats you can adjust whichever way is most comfortable for your senior passenger
- Honda Odyssey – which includes rear speakers and features like CabinTalk and CabinWatch
- Dodge Grand Caravan – as this vehicle has side steps (optional) that are sure to make getting in and out of the car less of a hassle
- Subaru Forester – which boasts amazing seat support, which is a nice feature for when you need to drive longer distances
NOTE: The Honda CRV and Subaru Forester were listed among Kiplinger’s 2020 list of best SUVs for senior drivers, too.
Car Transfer Assistive Devices If You Have Trouble Getting Out Of Cars
For those seniors (or yourself) who may have difficulty getting into and out of cars, there are some handy assistive devices to make things easier:
- Swivel Car Seat For Elderly
- Slide Transfer Board
- Handybar Vehicle Support Handle
- Automotive Standing Aid
- Senior Step Stool
You can find these devices and more in our article, 11 Car Aids For Seniors That Make Driving More Comfortable.
If you’re transporting an elderly person in a car, you can’t always expect them to get into and out of a vehicle on their own. Now is actually a good time to reconsider the car or truck you drive, ensuring it’s designed for senior access.
You can help a senior by lifting them into the car. Walking aids, such as gait belts, can lessen the physical effort on your part. If your senior is in a wheelchair, you can either get them up and in the car or use equipment like a transfer board to help.
No matter which route you choose, be sure that you take steps to keep them (and you) as safe as possible when getting a senior into and out of a car.