Patient Lift Buyer's Guide

Patient Lift Buyer's Guide

By Kevin Cleary

A patient transfer can be a dangerous endeavor. Injuries can occur to both trained individuals and family members. Not to mention, serious trauma for the person being transferred. A patient or Hoyer lift can make these transfers safer (and more comfortable), especially for bariatric patients. The use of a lift takes the strain off of a caregiver’s back and minimizes shearing, allowing for a safer transfer. These lifts offer a variety of features, catering to many patients’ needs. Before purchasing a lift, many factors must be taken into consideration. What are the needs of the patient? Plus, sometimes a caregiver has limitations themselves. All models work using slings to lift the patient. These work like mini-hammocks, supporting the patient during a transfer. These are all hydraulic lifts; the difference is some use a manual hand pump, while others use a battery-powered motor.

Hydraulic Manual Patient Lifts

The hydraulic manual lift is the more inexpensive as of this time, but it does require the caregiver to physically pump the handle to lift the patient. This does require a small amount of physical exertion. These lifts do offer some advantages. They are lighter (no battery or electric motor) therefore making them extremely portable. Plus in the event of an extended power outage, they don’t require any electrical power to operate. These lifts even aid bariatric patients, and can handle between 400-600 lbs. depending on make and model. After securing the sling under the patient and connecting the sling to the boom arm, a few easy pumps of the hydraulic lift raise the patient for transfer with little effort.

Battery Powered Lifts or Electric Lifts

A battery-powered lift eliminates the need for this hand pump. These patient lifts come with a rechargeable battery and a push button controller to raise and lower the lift arm. Some models allow the battery to be left in the lift while charging while others use an external charger. The batteries even come with LED battery meters, to allow the user to see the remaining battery charge. Battery-powered lifts can assist in transferring bariatric patients between 450-600 lbs. An electric lift will not work while plugged in. There is an emergency release in the event of power loss.

Stand Up Patient Lifts or Sit-To-Stand Patient Lifts

Not only can these patient lifts help with transfers from bed to chair, there are some that help the patient stand. These standup or sit-to-stand lifts can assist a patient to their feet. In order to use this lift, a patient must be able to bear their own weight. They work by anchoring the patient’s feet and or calves while lifting the patient diagonally to a standing position. These lifts use specialized straps, belts, and slings to raise the patient. Many models offer the patient the ability to walk while still connected to the lift. And since these sit-to-stand lifts have a smaller base, they can fit into tighter spaces, such as bath and shower rooms. With the many different options stand assist patient lifts offer, just about any patient’s needs can be satisfied.

Overhead/In-Ceiling Lift

Another style of lift is an overhead or in-ceiling lift. These lifts work using a track permanently mounted in the ceiling or a post and rail system that can be tailored to a patient’s needs. There are 2, 3, and 4 post designs to maximize patient transfers. They use an electric hoist connected to the sling to raise and lower the patient. They do have an emergency release so that patients can be lowered during power outages. Also, since these tracks are rigid there is less flexibility for the caregiver. These tend to be more expensive than other kinds of lifts but do provide a higher level of convenience in certain situations. This style of lift does have some requirements as far as their installation (ceiling height, anchoring requirements, etc.), so a manufacturer’s specifications should be consulted.

Slings

There are many variations of patient lifts, but all utilize patient slings in order to lift the patient. These slings are connected to the lift arm by a few different methods, depending on the patient’s mobility. Some lifts utilize a chain system, while others use a six-point system, where the sling connects directly to the lift arm.

More Features

The legs on these lifting systems often open and close easily to fit around shower/commode chairs and furniture. They also easily fit under beds for simple transfers. The wheels on these lifts roll easily and lock to allow the caregiver effortless and safe portability. Another great feature is some of these lifts fold to allow for easy travel. A digital scale can also be added so that a patient’s weight can be monitored. Many models offer a transfer range from the floor to a bed or wheelchair. There are even hydraulic lifts to allow a person to use a pool. Whether transferring from a bed, a wheelchair, or assisting in the standing process, the benefits of a lifting system are immeasurable.