Lifting with Care: A Comprehensive Guide to Patient Lifts and Their Benefits
If you're caring for someone living with Alzheimer's or dementia or who has limited mobility, having to repeatedly lift to help them out of bed, into a chair and to the shower or toilet places significant stress on your body. For caregivers, this pattern contributes to back pain and muscle strain and increases injury risks.
Patient lifts, a form of transfer equipment with manual or electric operation, streamlines this process, providing your patient or loved one with more support and reducing the force you need to exert to help them throughout their day.
Learn more about what patient lifts are and their benefits:
What Are Patient Lifts?
The purpose of patient lifts is self-explanatory: Once a patient is supported, the device lifts them to help them move from one location to another. Commonly, these transfer devices assist them with getting out of bed and into a wheelchair or the bath, and decrease the amount of force required from a caregiver.
Patient lifts typically feature a base equipped with wheels and two legs that sit parallel to the floor; a mast, attached to the base and designed to rise up; a boom, which extends above the patient at an angle; a spreader or sling bar hanging from the boom; and a sling intended to support the patient. Clips or latches ensure the sling remains in place. Devices operate manually via a hydraulic pump or are electric with a rechargeable battery for power. Electric devices typically require less effort from the caregiver.
Patient lifts have a combination of the following functionalities:
- Manual lift: Featuring a pump handle the user moves up and down, these are the most affordable and lightweight models. A patient is supported by the lift, and the caregiver moves its components to transfer them from one surface or area to another.
- Power lifts: Using battery power and a push-button mechanism, these patient lifts are ideal for caregivers with minimal upper body strength and can be operated with just one hand.
- Heavy-duty lifts: Also called bariatric lifts, these solutions accommodate patients weighing above 350 pounds, supporting 600 pounds and over in many cases.
- Floor-based full-body sling lifts: These patient lifts have wheels at their base and adjustable legs. While they're the most popular option for home care, they're not sized for smaller or restricted spaces, such as the bathroom or a narrow hallway.
- Sit-to-stand lifts: Patients who can use their upper body and sit up by themselves benefit from this lift and get assistance as they transfer themselves around their home.
- Overhead full-body sling lifts: This patient lift, also called a ceiling lift, allows the patient to move between more locations in their home without always having to transfer to a wheelchair.
Benefits of Patient Lifts
For both the patient and the caregiver, patient lifts provide the following benefits:
- Lower injury risks, including reducing patient falls and back injuries for at-home caretakers or medical staff.
- Greater independence for patients who have some upper body strength and seek to move better throughout their homes. In these cases, a patient lift and a transfer chair assist them with moving from one surface to another and help reduce fall risks.
- Streamlined transfers at home or in a hospital or rehabilitation setting, including to a wheelchair or the bathroom to bathe or use the toilet.
Tips for Using Patient Lifts
Improper use of patient lifts increases fall risks and patient trauma. To correctly use the lift:
- Make sure the lift is sized for the patient's height and weight. Never put a larger patient in a lift supporting up to 300 lbs.
- Make sure you and anyone else using the lift are fully trained on its operation.
- Always check the fabric straps before use: Never use a frayed or stretched strap.
- Make sure all clips and latches are properly secured before operating the lift, and keep the legs open.
- Place the patient's arms inside the sling straps, and make sure they're calm before using the lift.
- If you're transferring them to a wheelchair or stretcher, ensure the mobility device's wheels are locked ahead of time.
- Always replace damaged or worn-out parts.