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If you care for someone with impaired mobility, you will no doubt find that trying to help move or lift them can prove a real challenge. Not only can it put unnecessary strain on the carer’s back, but it can also be unsafe for both yourself and the person you care for and it can result in injuries.
There are a wide range of transfer and handling aids that can make the task of moving a user easier and safer. Whether a patient or loved one needs help standing, walking, getting into and out of a vehicle or wheelchair or needs help with bed repositioning, there is a suitable aid for every need.
In this article, we will cover the best moving and handling aids for users with impaired mobility and the bedridden. We will explain the factors to consider before choosing the right moving/handling aids and we will cover the right way to handle and move patients safely.
Why Transfer and Handling Aids are Beneficial?
Trying to manually handle or lift a patient that suffers with impaired mobility or that is immobile cannot only be challenging but it can also be unsafe and dangerous for both yourself and the patient.
Lifting someone incorrectly can cause a number of musculoskeletal disorders which can result in back pain and other related injuries for the carer which can limit the ability to care for the patient.
It can also have consequences on the patient if they are handled incorrectly. They may sustain cuts and bruises if they have delicate skin and it can also result in shoulder, neck and back injuries. If the patient is recovering from an operation it may hinder their recovery.
For these reasons, it is important that the appropriate transfer and lifting aids are used over manual methods to help reduce injuries when handling users.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Handling/Transfer Aids
There are a wide range of handling and transfer aids on the market. Choosing the right aids that will prove most beneficial for the user will depend on a range of factors including:
Patient’s Disability – Understand what the person can do for themselves and what they may need help with. Is the patient able to stand on their feet but is unsteady or are they immobile or bedridden and therefore unable to stand by themselves?
Patients’ Needs – What activities does the patient need help with? Things to consider include:
- Do they need assistance standing from a chair?
- Do they need help transferring to and from a bed to a wheelchair or chair?
- If the person is bedridden or immobile, do they need to be repositioned regularly to reduce the risk of pressure sores?
- Do they require assistance getting into and out of a vehicle?
- Does the person need help to be lifted into the bath or onto the toilet?
- Is the person unsteady on their feet, do they need a transfer aid to stop them failing over and injuring themselves?
Patients Weight and Size – Another important factor to consider is the person’s weight and size. If the person is too heavy, it will probably be unsuitable and unsafe for you to physically help the patient with common activities such as helping them get out of bed. In these circumstances mechanical assistance aids such as a hoist will prove safer and more effective over a transfer aid such as a slide sheet or transfer board.
Environment – Where will the handling or transfer aid need to go? For example, do you need a mobile hoist in the bedroom to help the patient out of a bed? If so, ensure there is sufficient space to accommodate the hoist and there are no obstacles to impede it from working safely.
How to Handle and Move Patients Safely
To reduce the risk of injury during patient handling and transfer ensure that you follow the following procedures and guidelines:
Wear suitable and supportive footwear – Always wear proper footwear with non-slip soles when helping to move or handle someone. Avoid high-heeled shoes and wear comfortable clothing that is not too restrictive otherwise it may impede movement.
Check the condition of any handling/moving aids before use – Using worn out or damaged handling or moving aids can prove dangerous. Always check the condition of any aids before use to ensure that they are in good condition with no obvious signs of wear and tear. Never use any handling aids unless you know how to safely do so.
Make it as easy as possible for the patient when making a transfer – During a user transfer ensure that you place objects close together. This is particularly important is the user has a visual impairment or is unsteady on their feet. If you’re helping a user out of the bed into their wheelchair for example, make sure it’s next to the bed with the wheels locked so that they don’t need to reach over to get it themselves.
Remove any obstacles – When handling or moving someone, ensure that all obstacles that could prove a trip hazard or which could impede access are removed.
Stay close to the patient – When handling a patient ensure that you remain as close as possible to them with your back straight to ensure that they are well supported. Try to always stand on the person’s weaker side to provide the best support. Remember to always walk at their pace and never rush.
Support the patient the right way – Place your hand around the patient’s waist or shoulders where appropriate and avoid grabbing them by the skin which may be delicate in particular in the case for seniors. If the patient wants to hold onto you, get them to place their arm around your waist and never allow them to hold you around the neck.
Always bend your knees when lifting – When lifting or moving a person, always bend your knees and keep your back straight. If you have back ache avoid any lifting and get additional help.
Guide the user when getting into and out of a wheelchair/seat – Place your legs on either side of their knees to help guide them safely into position when helping a user into and out of a wheelchair or seat.
Avoid any heavy lifting – Never attempt to lift anyone. If a person is immobile or bedbound and needs to be regularly lifted ensure that you use a hoist.
Best Moving and Handling Aids for Unaided and Aided Use
A turner assists a carer in transferring a standing user from one location to another such as to and from a bed to a wheelchair or toilet. A turner is suitable for anyone that is able to stand but may struggle with walking.
The standing transfer aid is fitted with cushioned adjustable knee pads allowing the user to rest their knees against it during the transfer. The handles on the turner are used by the user to pull themselves up from a sitting to a standing position onto the base plate.
In order to use the turner, the patient places their feet onto the base plate of the turner and the knee pads are then adjusted by the carer to rest just under the user’s knees. The user then places their hands onto the handles in order to leverage themselves onto the base plate of the turner. As they stand up on the turner, the carer places their feet onto the opposite side of the base plate to act as a counterbalance. Once in the standing positon, the carer moves the user to the desired location while they hold onto the handles for support. Once in position, the carer turns them around while they sit down in the new position.
The tuner Pro is a compact turner that can be used throughout the house and can fit through tight spaces. It has an adjustable handle and knee supports that will suit all user needs and will allow a carer to easily transport a patient. The durable turner has aluminum base plate that is anti-slip.
Swivel Seat Cushion
Getting in and out of a car can often prove particularly challenging for users with impaired mobility. The use of a swivel seat cushion can make transitioning to and from a car easier.
The cushion swivels while the user remains seated on it. It can help to reduce the amount of twisting and turning a person needs to perform when entering or exiting a vehicle and it can lessen the strain on their limbs. While they are commonly used on car seats, they can be used on chairs and seats without arms as well.
For increased comfort, choose a swivel seat cushion that is constructed from memory foam such as the one from Sojoy. The cushion also features a cooling gel layer to prevent it from getting too hot and it also has a non-slip base.
A slide sheet is a lightweight but durable piece of fabric that is constructed from low-friction material that can be used by a carer to assist with bed transfers, turning and repositioning.
Slide sheets are a cost-effective and simple way to move an immobile user while they are in bed without having to physically lift them. To use a slide sheet, place it underneath the patient, next one person holds one side of the sheet while the other person holds the opposite side. Finally, one of the users pulls the sheet towards them, while the other pushes it away and the patient will automatically move across with it.
Users who are confined to a bed for prolonged periods who are unable to change position regularly are prone to pressure sores. It is vital therefore that they are repositioned every couple of hours to reduce the risk of pressure sores developing, the use of a slide sheet can make this process easier for the caregiver.
Slide sheets are reusable and are normally washable. They can come in a range of different sizes to suit all sized-beds. Depending on the slide sheet, it may come with handles or without handles.
A transfer belt also known as a gait belt fastens around a person’s waist and it assists the carer by providing a secure grip to help with transfers as well as with assisted walking.
These simple but effective devices are suitable for users with some mobility, who able to stand on their feet for limited periods of time. They can prove useful when helping someone go up or down stairs as well as repositioning them in or out of a chair or bed. If the user is unsteady on their feet, it can make transfers safer for both the user and the carer and it can help to prevent injuries.
Transfer belts are adjustable to suit different waist circumferences and most belts are constructed from sturdy and durable nylon fabric and are padded for user comfort. They are normally fitted with a number of handles so that the user can be gripped from a range of angles like the one shown below from Vive.
Transfer Pivot Disc
A transfer pivot disk is a useful aid for assisted transfers. The disc rotates 360 degrees and it is designed to help someone with limited mobility to transfer between a wheelchair/seat and to or from a bed or car with minimal effort.
It helps a user by reducing the strain on their legs while moving from one seated or laying position to another. Transfer discs are suitable for users who are able to stand but are unable to fully move their legs due to conditions such as partial paralysis.
In order to use a pivot disc safely, follow these simple steps:
- Position the pivot disc next to the patient’s feet.
- Place your foot on the disc to prevent it from rotating, while carefully helping the patient onto the disc. Note: If the user is particularly unstable, it is normally safer for the user to wear a transfer belt as this will allow you to properly hold onto them.
- Take your foot off the disc while carefully holding onto the patient’s hands or if they are wearing a transfer belt hold onto the belt’s handles and slowly rotate them until they have reached the desired position.
- Finally, carefully lower them into the new seating location.
For increased safety, pivot discs are fitted with a non-slip surface. They can come in a range of different diameter sizes. Always choose the most appropriate size for the particular user’s feet. A larger sized diameter disc will normally be more stable over a smaller sized-one.
The following transfer pivot disc from Sammons Preston comes in two different diameter sizes including a 12 inch and a 15 inch. It has a weight capacity of 330 pounds and it is fitted with a non-slip grooved base for increased grip.
A transfer board is usually constructed from wood or plastic with a low-friction surface and allows someone to transfer between two points while remaining seated. The board bridges the gap between a chair or wheelchair and bed allowing the user to simply slide across the board without needing to get up therefore helping to reduce the risk of falls.
A transfer board is ideally suited for anyone who is unable to bear weight or suffers from balance issues when standing during transfers.
Transfer boards can come in a range of sizes and shapes. They can be straight, angled as well as curved. Curved and angled transfer boards provide a greater variety of positioning options over a conventional straight board.
Some transfer boards such as the one from BeasyGlyder are fitted with a rotating seat that slides across the full length of the board making transfers quicker and easier.
A useful piece of equipment if you need to move users regularly who are unable to stand or have limited mobility is a patient lift. A lift consists of a metal frame that is attached to a sling-lifting mechanism. In order to use a lift, the user sits in the sling and is then lifted mechanically by the lift to the appropriate location such as a chair, wheelchair, bed or into the bath.
A lift can either be electrically powered or it can be manually operated and is controlled via a handset. Electrically operated lifts are normally powered by a rechargeable battery and usually feature emergency stop and lowering buttons that allow it to be operated in case of any power outage or emergency.
The sling which the user sits in comes in a variety of designs and sizes. Choosing the right sling is imperative for the user’s safety and comfort. When deciding on the right sling, the user’s size, weight and the purpose of lifting will all need to be taken into consideration.
There a three main types of patient lifts which include:
Mobile Patient Lift
Mobile lifts are portable and can be used throughout the home. The base of the lift usually feature wheels that allow the carer to easily transport the user between different locations such as to and from the bedroom and bathroom.
Most mobile lifts are battery-operated and will require regular charging. Opt for a mobile lift that has a battery-backup pack which will eliminate downtime and ensure that it also has a manual lowering option that can be used in case of power loss.
Before purchasing a mobile lift, always ensure that you have sufficient space where it will need to be used. If you’ll be using the lift to transport a patient to and from the bathroom and bedroom for example, make sure that it will fit through the doorway/corridor and there is sufficient space in order to operate it safely.
The legs of the patient lift will need to fit under and go around furniture such as a chair, bed, toilet, wheelchair or shower chair. For convenience, opt for a mobile lift that has a width adjustable base this will allow you to operate the lift in narrower spaces.
If space is limited choose a mobile lift that is foldable which can easily be stored away or transported when needed.
Standing hoists are battery operated and consist of 3 mains parts, the plate where the user stands, the mast and the lift arms/hand rail.
In order to use a standing hoist, the carer helps the patient onto the edge of a chair or bed and places the lifter belt around the patient’s waist. The hoist is then wheeled in front of the user and the lifting arms are lowered. The patient then places their feet onto the plate and their knees are placed against the adjustable knee pads. The belt that the user is wearing is then attached to the hoist and the user places their hands on the lift arms. The carer then activates the lifting mechanism using the handset controls to help stand the user. Finally the user is wheeled to relevant location and they are then lowered to the new seating position and the lifter belt is removed from their waist.
This type of hoist is a permanently mounted to the ceiling. They are particularly suited if the hoist is only required in a particular room such as in the bedroom.
A ceiling hoist takes up no floor space unlike a mobile hoist so you won’t need to worry about any obstacles such as chairs, furniture, beds etc.
The format of the room, the type of ceiling, and the requirements of the user will all need to be considered before a ceiling hoist can be installed. In some circumstances, the room’s ceiling may be unsuitable to install the overhead hoist and it may need to be strengthened with concrete or steel to provide additional support.
Profiling beds also known as hospital beds are adjustable and are controlled via a simple to use handset. The base is divided into a number of sections allowing the user to position the bed including the angle and height to their specific needs. Sections that can be adjusted can include the headrest, backrest and the footrest.
These types of electrical beds are ideal for users that are bed-bound or for those that need to remain in bed for extended periods of time. They allow an individual to adopt a more comfortable posture at a touch of a button without needing the assistance of a carer. They can also help to relieve joint pain as well as relieve pressure on the limbs thus assisting in reducing the occurrence of pressure sores.
Profiling beds can provide additional benefits for a carer as well. It can reduce the need to manually handle the patient which can increase safety for both parties as well as reduce the workload considerably for the carer and reduce the need for additional transfer or moving aids.
Trying to lift a user manually that has fallen especially if they are heavy can often be challenging and dangerous. A lifting cushion is a portable and lightweight air-assisted lifting device that automatically inflates and it is designed to lift a person of any size from the floor after a fall.
In order to a use a lifting cushion, the carer rolls or moves the fallen person onto the deflated cushion. The cushion is then inflated automatically at the touch of a button. Once fully inflated, it will raise the patient to a seated position who can then be helped back onto their feet safely with minimal effort.
The ELK lifting cushion from Mangar is compact and lightweight and weighs just 8lbs, it is portable and can be used in a compact space. With a 980 lbs lifting capacity it is suitable for heavier/bariatric individuals. It is powered by a 24V air compressor that fully inflates within a couple of minutes allowing the fallen person to be quickly assisted and helped to their feet.
Best Moving Aids That Can be Used Unaided in Bed
There are a number of aids that can assist a person with upper body strength to sit up and adjust their position in bed without requiring assistance enabling them to be more independent. These assistive devices can be useful for anyone that needs to spend extended periods of time in bed and they can include such aids as:
Lifting Pole/Bed Trapeze
A lifting pole also known as a bed trapeze is used to help a patient move in bed. It allows them to easily and safely sit up and reposition themselves as required.
It has a cantilever gantry structure which can either be stand-alone or bed-mounted and which sits directly over the patient’s bed. Attached to the cantilever gantry is a hanging-height adjustable handlebar which the user grips on to when repositioning themselves.
The lifting pole from Lumex Versa-Helper is extremely sturdy. There are two versions available, one with a weight capacity of 450 lbs and another with 600 lbs weight capacity which is suitable for larger individuals. It only requires 3″ clearance under the bed.
Bed Rope Ladder
A bed rope ladder fastens to the bottom of the bed frame and assists those with lower extremity weakness to incrementally rise to a seated position. The bed ladder usually features wooden or plastic rungs that are attached to a rope. To use the ladder, the user pulls the successive rungs on the ladder until they have reached the desired seating position.
A bed ladder can easily be removed and is portable so it can be taken with the user when traveling. Most bed ladders are length adjustable to suit all sized beds and they can easily be removed and used elsewhere.
Bed Grab Rail
A bed grab rail allows a user to reposition themselves in bed and also assists with getting into and out of bed.
There are a wide range of bed rails available. Some are freestanding, these are placed between the underside of the bed and the bedroom floor, while others are fixed. Fixed bed rails are available in two versions. Ones that can be positioned between the mattress and the bed base, and others that are attached to the bed frame.
It is important to always select the right grab rail for the particular bed base. If the base is either slatted or is spring-sprung or it is a profiling bed, a grab rail that fits between the mattress and the bed base will be unsuitable. In this case, you should opt for a freestanding grab rail.
Grab rails are usually height and width adjustable so they are usually suitable for most sized beds.
For increased safety, choose a grab rail that has a slip-resistant handles such as the one shown below from Vaunn medical.