Tools of the Trade: Fitting Clients with the Right Patient Lift
Getting a client from point A to point B often requires the use of more than just a wheelchair. In fact, getting a client to point A could require the use of patient lifts those spider-like inventions that do the work of lifting for a caregiver. Patient lifts are a great tool, but according to Liko Inc., Franklin, Mass., the tool works well only if the client selects a product that provides safe operation and meets the specific needs of the client, caregiver and location.
"Patient lifts are the best way to move those who have little or no strength to move themselves, and they are the safest means to move a patient," says Angela Mayfield, director of marketing, Graham-Field Health Products, Atlanta. "Safety is the biggest benefit that patient lifts offer the caregiver avoids back injuries, and the patient can be lifted without incident."
Of course, the true safety of the lift is determined by the proper fit. Slings are an essential component of lifts for preventing injury to both the caregiver and client. The proper size will ensure that the client is comfortable without falling out. Important factors to consider are the strength and durability of fabrics and sanitization requirements, says Liko.
"As important as the lift is the sling," says Mayfield. For that reason, Graham-Field offers slings specifically designed for uses such as bathing and toileting and geared toward specific client needs such as head support requirements or for amputees.
Consider the Client
The two main types of patient lifts on the market are mobile floor lifts and sit-to-stand lifts. Mobile floor lifts, which can be either manual or electric, "are appropriate for use with patients who have very little strength or are unable to move themselves at all," says Mayfield. "Sit-to-stand lifts, which help patients to move from a sitting to a standing position, are ideal for patients who can use their legs to support some weight. The use of sit-to-stand lifts gives patients a sense of being more in control, since they are participating in the lift."
The right sling can also make a patient lift suitable for a pediatric client, says Mayfield. Likewise, the need for bariatric lifts has spurred growth, though "bariatric lifts are generally larger, less maneuverable and have a higher-profile base," Mayfield says.
When helping a client chose the correct equipment for lifting, Liko suggests that the following questions be answered:
- How will the sling be used? (Bed-to-chair? Ambulation? Repositioning?)
- Does the client need full back support?
- Does the client have clinical limitations?
- Can the client participate in the lift?
- Is the client an amputee?
- Will the sling be used in the bathtub?
- Will the client remain in the sling for long periods of time?
"There's a balance that must be reached between functionally, what you are trying to do with a patient, and economically, what's reimbursable and how much financial leeway a family has," says Mayfield. "Floor lifts come in a ride range of prices. In most cases, product choice is ultimately economic, driven by Medicare reimbursement, secondary insurance and a family's financial position. Seemingly small features and benefits really matter to a caregiver already dealing with a difficult situation, and the most economical choice may not be the best one. A family may choose to pay more out-of-pocket to get the functionality that they really need."
Location, Location, Location
An important factor to consider, according to Liko, is the home environment of the client. Some things to evaluate when helping a client choose the appropriate lift include:
- Available work space (curtain configuration, equipment turning radius, etc.)
- Ancillary equipment
- Environmental factors (floors, screens, furniture, thresholds, etc.)
- Infection control
- Identification of caregiver cumulative load, fatigue, potential for injury
Assessment is the key to providing the client with a successful product. "Everything starts with a good needs assessment: what the caregiver is really trying to do with the patient," says Mayfield. "There are many good products that may fit the bill. The dealer also needs to consider other equipment that may be required for safe transfers
What works for both patient and caregiver is the best choice."
Other specialty patient lifts include pool lifts (pictured) and stair lifts. For product descriptions featured in July's Elisha's Picks, visit Patient Lifts on the Home Health Products Web site.
This article originally appeared in the July 2006 issue of HME Business.