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For patients with additional needs, or for those who are unable to move themselves from one place to another, a mechanical lift can be invaluable both for helping caregivers and for the comfort and safety of the patient during a transfer.
Choosing the right sling to use on a patient lift can however be a challenge, especially as there are so many different types and options available. There are also a lot of factors to take into consideration when using a sling, and it is imperative that certain guidelines are followed, to ensure that every transfer is a safe transfer.
In this article, we will be exploring everything you will need to know in order to select the right sling for your patient lift. We will also cover some of the best lift slings to assist with different types of patient transfers.
Patient Lift Slings Comparison Chart
Liko Universal Sling
Invacare Full Body Padded Sling
Hoyer Deluxe Standing Sling
Hoyer "U" Padded Sling with Head Support
Invacare Full Body Mesh Sling with Commode Opening
Bestcare Pediatric "Hammock" Sling
Up to 242 lbs
Up to 450 lbs
Up to 440 lbs
Up to 600 lbs
Up to 600 lbs
Mesh polyester / padded polyester
S, M, L, XL
M, L, XL
S, M, L
M, L, XL
M, L, XL, XXL
What is a Lift Sling?
A lift sling is a piece of equipment designed to help those with limited mobility move from one place to another, for example, moving from a chair to the bed. The slings are used in conjunction with a patient hoist, sometimes referred to as a patient lift which is a mechanical arm designed to aid in moving a patient. The patient lift is usually operated by either a manual hand crank or automatically when using a battery-operated piece of equipment.
The lift sling attaches to the arm of the lift using either a loop system or a clip system – it is important to remember that you must select the relevant system for use with your patient lift. A hoop attachment sling must not be used with a clip lift and vice versa, this is to ensure 100% safe use of the sling.
Types of Lift Slings
Owing to the fact that the needs of each person will vary greatly, there is a variety of lift sling types which allow you to find something that will work well for your situation or that of someone you care for.
Universal Everyday Sling
These slings, as their name may suggest, are those which are ideal for everyday use and will come in handy in a variety of situations.
In the main, there are two types of universal sling – the U shaped sling and a full-body version. The latter is designed for those who require full-body support, for example, someone who has little or no control over any part of their body or someone who lacks overall strength. The U shaped sling works better for patients who are able to bear some of their own weight.
Universal slings come in a variety of sizes so that you can be sure you have found the correct size for the person who will be using it.
Bathing & Toileting Sling
As many as 17% of men and 20% of women in the USA have a disability of some sort that requires some sort of assistance when using the bathroom so a bathroom or toileting sling can come in extremely useful for caregivers and patients alike.
These slings make removing clothing much easier and are also designed with every aspect of the bathroom in mind.
Bathroom and toileting slings are made from quick-dry material which is essential in an environment where a lot of moisture is present.
As with other types of sling, it is important to find the right size for the patient.
One of the most important things to remember about a stand-up sling is that they should only be used for patients who are able to take some of their own weight. If a standing sling is used with a patient who does not have the correct strength or suitable balance, it can be very dangerous so it is important to assess the ability of the user beforehand and if there is any doubt, opt for something more supportive.
Stand-up slings are designed to aid a patient in standing up to use the toilet, for example, and are much smaller than other slings. These types of slings are usually used on sit to stand lifts.
They wrap around the lower ribs and the patient should be able to lean into the sling during the transfer.
For users who are heavier, a standard sling may not be suitable since these come with a maximum weight capacity that is not suitable for larger people. For this reason, it is important to source a bariatric sling that is designed with a more generous weight capacity – this will ensure safer transfers for the user.
These slings will usually also feature longer and wider straps for the legs and a broader sling overall.
There is an option for amputee patients to have a custom made sling designed which suits their unique needs. However, it is also possible to purchase a pre-designed amputee sling that features improved hip support and greater support around the remaining limbs.
If you require a custom sling, it is important to consult with a physical therapist who will be able to give you details on what features would suit your needs.
Fabric Types Used for Slings
Patient lift slings can come in a variety of materials, each one designed for a specific purpose. It is important that, when choosing a sling, you consider where it will be used and for what purpose, this will give you a greater idea of which material will work best.
Mesh is a breathable material that is ideal for use in a bathroom or toileting sling thanks to its quick-drying nature. The holes in the material mean that water can drain through much more quickly than other types of material. Not only this, but the mesh is much easier to clean which is essential for slings that are going to be used in an environment like the bathroom where bacteria may be present.
Furthermore, a mesh sling makes a good choice for people who are susceptible to pressure sores.
The most common material that is used in hoist slings is polyester which is man-made and durable. Thanks to this, polyester slings tend to offer superior support for the user, in turn, this means better comfort.
When the sling has been washed, polyester tends to dry quickly so that the sling can be put back to use again soon after.
Some patients may require additional padding in their hoist slings and there are many products which offer this.
A padded sling will give the user additional comfort whilst in the sling so is good for those who may be more likely to get sores or who need that little bit of extra comfort.
This type of material is very easy to apply and for this reason, it is frequently used for people who use moulded seat systems since it can be left in place in between uses.
It is extremely lightweight but still provides a good level of support and is surprisingly durable and hard wearing.
However, since the sling will be left in place for long periods of time, it is important to carry out a risk assessment to ensure safe and proper use.
How to Use a Sling Safely?
One of the first things that you should do before using the hoist sling is to check its integrity to make sure that it is safe to use. Take a look over the sling and check for any tears, fraying or other damage – if you find anything, you should not use the sling.
Once you are satisfied that the sling is fit for use and you have the right type of sling for the type of lift you are using, you can begin to apply the sling.
Patient is Lying Down
If the patient is lying down, roll them onto their side so that you can place the sling onto the bed – when you do this, you should roll it lengthways and place the bottom of the sling slightly behind the patient’s knees. Be sure that the side without straps and labels is facing down so that it doesn’t come into contact with the person’s skin as this can cause irritation and discomfort.
Now roll the patient onto their back, being gentle at all times and you can then unroll the sling. Check that the leg pieces and shoulders line up correctly and strap the shoulder and modesty straps to the bars of the hoist. Be sure to check that everything is secure before you begin moving the user.
Patient is Seated
If the patient is sitting in a chair, a different method should be undertaken. This involves shuffling the sling behind the person until such time that the leg pieces are near the bottom of the chair. Once they are in line with the hips, you can gently pull them so that they come down in line with the legs. You should now be able to attach the loops to the bar on the hoist and begin lifting. Once again, safety should be the main priority and you should never lift the patient until you are satisfied that everything is securely attached.
How to Choose the Correct Sling Size?
As we mentioned earlier, hoist slings come in a variety of sizes to suit varying needs and it is important to choose the right size to ensure safe patient transfers.
For the most part, hoist slings come in sizes from extra small through to extra-large, and of course, there are the bariatric slings we talked about earlier on. The majority of manufacturers will use a color coding system which demonstrates the size (and weight capacity) of the equipment. Each sling will have a guide that will tell you the size sling that is needed for your height and weight – this should be followed precisely.
You can measure your height and weight to get a good idea of the size of sling that will best meet your needs and body type, however there is a particular method that is used to get the best measurement for a hoist sling.
If you can stand, then you can be measured this way but for many people with a disability, it is preferable to lie down or sit whilst your caregiver takes the measurements. In order to ensure the best sling fit, you should be measured from your tailbone to the top of your shoulders. However, if you require a sling with a head support, the measurement should be from the tail bone to 1.5 inches over the top of the head.
Patients who are slightly larger may also benefit from a wider sling, this can be determined by measuring around the shoulders, chest and hips.
Hoist Sling Buyer’s Guide
As we begin to gain a greater understanding of how and why a hoist sling is important for disabled patients, it isn’t difficult to see that there are certain things that we should consider before using a sling.
The needs of the patient and how the sling will be used will have an impact on the type of sling you will choose. Here are some important factors that you will need to take into consideration when choosing an appropriate sling:
Patient’s Physical Abilities
There will be two people using the sling – the person sitting in it and the caregiver so it is important to think about both of their needs when choosing a sling.
Primarily, the stability and balance of the patient should be considered. Do they require a full-body sling with head support or are they able to manage some of their own weight? You may also wish to think about whether the user commonly obtains pressure sores as the material of the sling can make a big difference here. Mesh slings tend to be preferable for patients who are susceptible to sores.
Furthermore, you should consider how the sling will be used and what areas the user struggles with. For example, do they require lifting in the bathroom or do they need help with getting dressed and getting in and out of bed? If the user requires general assistance in every area of their day, a universal sling may be a better option.
The ability of the caregiver should also be considered and whether they are able to handle a lot of manual handling or whether they may need additional support themselves.
Type of Transfers
How the sling will be used will be an important factor when thinking about which sling will work best for your needs.
If the patient needs help to get from a sitting position into a standing one, it may be beneficial to make use of a standing sling. However, as we discussed earlier on, it is important for the patient to be able to bear some of their weight.
In contrast, if you require the use of a sling for sitting to lying transfers or vice versa, something larger and more supportive will work better and will provide a much more comfortable and safer transfer.
Compatible with Lift
The sling is what separates the user from the patient lift, and if it is not compatible it could cause injury or harm to the user. It is important to check that the patient will not hit themselves on the lift whilst in the sling and choosing one which is compatible will ensure that this doesn’t happen.
Moreover, you should be sure to use a sling which has compatible attachments so that it can be securely rigged to the hoist without any risk of it coming loose. There are two types of attachment – loop and clip. Choosing the right one will mean that the sling works well with both the spreader bar and the lift itself.
There is little point in purchasing a sling that cannot be used due to a lack of physical space. For this reason, it is vital that you check the measurements of the sling in the room or environment where it will be used. This doesn’t just apply to when the hoist is stationary but also the clearance it will need to move the patient from one place to another.
It is also worth thinking about the conditions in which the sling will be used. For example, if you are going to be using it in a moist environment such as the bathroom, you may benefit from a mesh sling which will dry much more quickly.
If the correct weight capacity is not selected, there is a risk of the sling not being able to safely transfer the user which could result in serious injury.
The weight capacity of the sling is usually displayed on the labeling so it is important to check this when you are purchasing your sling.
As we mentioned earlier, there are bariatric slings that are designed for heavier patients and these should be considered if necessary.
Measuring the user for the sling will provide a more comfortable and safe experience and since slings come in such a vast array of sizes, you should be sure to check the height of the user.
In some cases, it is possible to have your sling customer made for users who are much smaller or taller than the sling sizes generally on offer.
Best Lift Slings for Patient Transfers
1. Liko Universal Sling
The Liko universal sling is suited for a full range of lifting scenarios. It features a high-back design that provides excellent support for the patient as well as making transfers extremely comfortable.
The sling is very easy to fit. It is designed to adapt to the patient without needing to perform any special adjustments, which helps to simplify the transfer process. The high-back sling allows the patient to adopt an upright seated posture during transfers, and due to the fact the user can hold their arms within the sling, this helps to make transfers more secure.
The sling is constructed from durable polyester, which offers superior support. This also means the sling can be washed easily. The sling is available in a full range of sizes, from small up to extra-large, making it suitable for most sized individuals.
- Weight capacity: Up to 242 lbs
- Sling points: 4-point
- Fabric type: Polyester
- Available sizes: S, M, L, XL
2. Invacare Full Body Padded Sling
The full-body sling from Invacare is recommended for patients with poor upper mobility, who may suffer from impaired head or trunk stability. The sling provides full head and neck support, allowing the patient’s upper body to be well supported, so that transfers can be conducted securely and comfortably.
The general purpose sling is suitable for most types of scenarios including, wheelchair, bed, bath, shower, and toilet transfers. The 4-point sling ensures that the user’s weight is evenly distributed during transfers.
Constructed from polyester-nylon, the sling also features a soft-brushed padded lining that offers increased comfort. This also helps to minimize the risk of shearing or friction skin injuries, which is particularly important for users with particularly sensitive skin.
The full-body sling from Invacare is available in 3 sizes including, medium, large and extra-large, and with a weight capacity of up to 440 lbs, it suitable for bariatric use as well.
- Weight capacity: Up to 450 lbs
- Sling points: 4-point
- Fabric type: Polyester-nylon
- Available sizes: M, L, XL
3. Hoyer Deluxe Standing Sling
For patients who suffer from poor lower mobility but who have some weight-bearing ability, the Hoyer Deluxe standing sling can be a good solution that can help with transfers. Whether the patient requires assistance transferring from a bed into a wheelchair or chair, or the user needs help going to the toilet, this transfer sling can assist with sit-to-stand transfers.
The transfer sling is easy to attach to the patient. Simply place the sling behind the users back (between the base of their shoulder blades and the bottom of their rib cage), then attach the strap around the front of the patient, and finally attach both loops on the sling to the lift bar on the sit-to-stand transfer lift.
It features a non-slip back pad, which helps to keep the sling in place during transfers, and stops it from riding up, ensuring maximum safety.
The Hoyer Deluxe standing sling is available in a choice of 3 sizes, including small, medium, and large.
- Weight capacity: Up to 440 lbs
- Sling points: 2-point
- Fabric type: Padded polyester
- Available sizes: S, M, L
4. Hoyer “U” Padded Sling with Head Support
With its U-shaped and split-leg design, this sling from Hoyer makes applying and removing it from the patient much easier. Unlike with a full-body sling, which needs to be dragged under the user’s body, with this type of sling, it can easily be slipped behind the patient, even while they are seated or lying down. This not only lessens the workload for the caregiver, but it also reduces the risk of possible skin injuries to the patient when applying and removing the sling.
The sling has head and neck support, which makes it suitable for patients with limited upper body strength. The sling is also fully padded, which helps to maximize comfort.
The sling is suitable for 2, 4, or 6 point spreader bars. With a weight capacity of up to 600 lbs, the sling is suitable for heavier users.
- Weight capacity: Up to 600 lbs
- Sling points: 4-point
- Fabric type: Padded polyester
- Available sizes: M, L, XL
5. Invacare Full Body Mesh Sling with Commode Opening
The Invacare full-body mesh sling is suited for users who require assistance with toileting or bathing transfers. With its polyester mesh design, the sling allows water to easily drain through it, so it will dry quickly after bathing.
The commode opening in the sling allows the user to go to the toilet easily without needing to remove the sling. The higher back design ensures users with poor upper mobility are transferred comfortably and safely. A soft-brushed lining helps to prevent the user from sliding during the transfer process, and it also helps to reduce the risk of skin tears.
Often slings may lose their shape after prolonged use, this sling, however, uses stretch-resistant material, which means it will hold its shape. The full-body mesh sling is available in several sizes, including medium, large, extra-large, and double extra-large, with a top weight capacity of 600 lbs.
- Weight capacity: Up to 600 lbs
- Sling points: 4-point
- Fabric type: Mesh polyester
- Available sizes: M, L, XXL, XL
6. Bestcare Pediatric “Hammock” Sling
The hammock style sling from Bestcare is suited for child transfers. The sling features head support as well as additional upper thigh supports that helps to keep each thigh well supported and ensures that the thighs are kept close together to ensure the child’s safety during transfers.
The sling comes in a choice of two different fabrics, padded polyester, or a quick-drying mesh fabric which is suitable for bathing transfers. The slings feature a 6 point connection, which helps to increase the user’s safety, as well as weight distribution to ensure maximum comfort.
The sling has a security belt to keep the child more secure. There is also a positioning handle at the back that allows the caregiver to guide the child into a chair, wheelchair, commode, bed, or shower during the transfer process.
The sling is available in one size, and it is suitable for children and smaller adults who are under 100 lbs.
- Weight capacity: 100 lbs
- Sling points: 6-point
- Fabric type: Mesh polyester / padded polyester
- Available sizes: One size
A lift sling is an integral piece of mobility equipment in the lives of many less able-bodied patients. They provide the ability to move from one place or position to another and can come in a variety of sizes and purposes.
The hoist sling attaches to a patient lift so it is important that you choose a sling that is compatible with your equipment. This will make sure that the transfer is as safe as possible.
Many things ought to be considered when choosing a hoist sling but if you are in any doubt about the safety or function of the sling, you should not use it.