Patient Lift Buyer’s Guide

Patient lifts buyer's guide

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For patients with limited mobility, it is essential to find a way of transferring them from one place to another without the risk of injury to either the patient or the caregiver. A patient lift is an ideal piece of equipment for this, but it is important to understand the features and how they’ll meet your needs.

Why Use a Patient Lift?

A patient lift is ideal for people who have serious problems with mobility or balance and cannot easily transfer themselves from one location to another. They can be used to move the patient from the bed to a wheelchair or other seat, in the bathroom, and when using a swimming pool.

Using a lift eliminates the risk of injuries caused to either the patient or the caregiver, which is a very real problem when manually handling the patient. Moreover, the strain on the caregiver is lessened, which is particularly important for those providing full-time care.

If you are caring for an individual with impaired cognition, then a lift may be useful since the patient may not be able to follow instructions when moving manually. In all cases, the use of a lift can make transfers far less of an ordeal for the patient, but this is even more significant for those with cognitive impairments who may become easily distressed.

Types of Patient Lifts

There are several different types of patient lift that are designed for various situations. When looking to purchase this type of equipment, it is essential to understand the difference between each one. For some people, a sit-to-stand lift may be more appropriate if they can hold their own weight but have trouble moving from a sitting to a standing position.

For those with more severe mobility issues and who need assistance in all kinds of transfers, a powered ceiling or floor lift may be necessary.

Hoyer/Floor Lift

Hydraulic hoyer lift

You may sometimes hear a floor lift being referred to as a Hoyer lift but keep in mind that they are one of the same. The word Hoyer comes from a well-known floor lift brand. These lifts are excellent if you require equipment that can be freely moved around the home since they are lightweight and very easily portable. In addition to this, a floor lift is usually compact enough to move through doorways and corridors, further allowing freedom of movement.

The floor lift is often much more versatile than other types and so is ideal for people in need of long-term care. Not only can it be used for lifting but also for help with standing. The floor lift features an adjustable base that can be made wider or narrower so that the device can easily be used around furniture.

In terms of power, Hoyer lifts are often manually operated and work on a hydraulic system. However, there are some heavy-duty Hoyer lifts that are electrically powered. If the patient is larger or more comprehensive care is needed, a powered version may be the best choice.

Ceiling Lift

Ceiling lift

If you do not have a lot of floor space, then a ceiling lift may be a viable solution as these devices are installed on a track fitted to the ceiling. They are incredibly safe to use and will minimize the risk of injury to both the patient and the caregiver. A caregiver will not need to offer as much physical support meaning the strain on them is lessened.

With manual floor hoists, you would generally need two caregivers for the safest operation, but a powered ceiling hoist often only requires one carer to offer support.

One of the biggest benefits of the ceiling lift is that it can typically be adapted to the layout of the home. Tracks can be installed in various locations around the property, making this one of the most versatile types of lift. They offer a very smooth and comfortable ride for the patient. Moreover, you have the choice of installing a temporary or permanent lift.

Sit-to-Stand Lift

Sit-to-stand lift

As its name may suggest, a sit-to-stand lift is used to aid patients who have limited mobility in moving from a sitting to a standing position. It is important to keep in mind that, to use this type of equipment, the patient must be able to bear some of their own weight. The great benefit of the sit-to-stand lift is that it can provide a person with the ability to continue living life as independently as possible.

A sit-to-stand lift is a compact and portable device, so is very useful in homes or care settings where the patient may need assistance in more than one location.

The patient is supported by a sling that is attached to a metal boom, and the lift can be used to move from a bed, chair, toilet, wheelchair, and back again.

Bathtub Lift

Rather than paying to install a walk-in bathtub, a bathtub hoist can be installed on any existing bathtub and can be used by people with extremely limited mobility or who might need assistance in bathing. That said, there are many bathtub hoists whose controls are located near to the user so that they can bathe independently.

This type of lift is made from durable materials like stainless steel to prevent rusting and often comes with a 360º rotating seat for greater freedom of movement and ease of use.

There are several different types of bathtub lifts, so it’s important to choose one that is right for you. A fixed bathtub lift is a permanent installation and can be either manually or electrically powered. A powered lift is ideal for those seeking greater independence. You might also choose an inflatable bathtub lift that attaches to the base of the tub. Upon activation, the seat deflates or inflates to lower or raise the user in and out of the water.

Pool/Spa Lift

Hydraulic pool lift

A pool lift can be used to assist the user in getting in and out of a swimming pool. Some are designed for use with spas which is excellent news for those who require hydrotherapy. You will often see a pool lift installed in a commercial leisure center or pool, and these are usually permanent fixtures. That said, there are a variety of portable pool lifts on the market for people who require something more versatile.

A fixed pool lift will be able to take more weight than its portable counterpart so may be useful for bariatric patients. In either case, these lifts are fitted with suitable restraints for safe use during transfer.

However, a portable lift may be more suitable for people who need assistance in moving from the changing area to the poolside. These devices often feature motorized steering to assist with this and can be easily stored away when not in use.

Freestanding Floor-Based Lift vs Ceiling Lift

One of the main differences between a floor lift and a ceiling lift is that the latter is a fixed installation while the former can be moved around the property, offering greater freedom of movement. There are several pros and cons to think about before making a decision on which is the best lift for your needs.

Floor Based Patient Lifts


  • Can be used to lift patients who have fallen to the floor, provided the boom has the correct reach
  • Can be moved around obstacles and has an adjustable base
  • More affordable than a ceiling lift
  • Can be stored away when not in use
  • In some cases, depending on risk assessment, a floor lift can be used for repositioning a patient in bed


  • Requires a lot of effort to move around especially over carpets
  • Takes up floor space
  • Limit on how high the lift can move
  • Potential of the lift falling over

Ceiling Lifts


  • Requires minimal strain from caregiver
  • Better for positioning patients in the bed
  • Safe for using to assist patients who have fallen to the floor
  • Does not take up any floor space
  • Easier to use in smaller spaces


  • Tracking may not be able to be installed in all areas of the home
  • If ceilings are low, modifications may be necessary

Freestanding Floor-Based Lift vs Sit-to-Stand Lift

Many people confuse the sit-to-stand lift and the floor lift as these are both portable devices. However, it is imperative to keep in mind that these two pieces of equipment are to be used in vastly different circumstances.

A floor lift is used to fully lift patients from one place to another, such as from a bed to a chair. They are designed to take the full weight of the patient and offer complete support. On the other hand, a sit-to-stand lift is to be used only by weight-bearing patients and offers assistance in moving from a sitting to a standing position and vice versa.

Much like the comparison between floor lifts and ceiling lifts, there are pros and cons to think about before choosing a model that will benefit your needs.

Floor Based Patient Lifts


  • Portable with an adjustable base, making the floor lift ideal for use in various locations around the property
  • Offers full support to patients who cannot bear their own weight
  • Good for patients requiring long term care


  • Most devices are operated manually, so are more strenuous for the caregiver to use

Sit-to-Stand Lifts


  • Can be used by patients who are able to bear some of their own weight
  • Can sometimes be used to aid walking
  • Portable and compact; ideal for use in various locations around the home
  • Require less strain from a caregiver
  • Useful for people undergoing rehabilitation after surgery or an injury


  • Not suitable for full transfers

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Patient Lift

Considering that there are so many different types of patient lifts, it goes without saying that choosing the right one is essential in meeting the needs of the user.

You will need to think about the type of power you require, where the lift will be used, and the needs of the patient, among other things.

Patient’s Requirements

Each patient has different needs, and as such, you must choose a lift that meets these as closely as possible. One of the first things to think about is what the patient needs assistance with. Do they simply need aid moving from a sitting to a standing position, or do they require full assistance when moving from one location to another?

If the former is true, then you may find that a sit-to-stand lift provides the best support. Of course, you must ensure that the user can take some of their own weight to safely use this type of equipment. For patients who have more complex mobility needs, then a floor or ceiling hoist might be the right option.

For some people, limited mobility means that they find it difficult to get into and out of a pool, spa, or bath. In this case, there are specialized lifts that are designed to be used in these situations.

You must also think about the abilities of the user as this will help you to decide on the correct type of sling; this is the part of the lift that supports that patient. Consider the following types of slings and their uses:

Sling Type


Universal Sling

Universal slings are used to move patients in a seated position. They offer excellent support for the hips and torso so are an ideal choice for those who have trouble controlling these areas themselves. Furthermore, a universal sling offers support for the legs and head, where needed, and can be adjusted to suit the needs of the individual.

Toileting Sling

Toileting slings, sometimes called hygiene slings are for use in the bathroom and can be used over a toilet without the need to remove the patient. They often feature heightened support in the form of waistbands which helps to keep the user still while they use the sling. However, since there is an aperture in the sling, the patient must be able to hold themselves upright to ensure safe use.

Handling Sling

Handling slings are designed not for lifting but repositioning and come in useful for patients who may need assistance in turning in bed to avoid pressure sores or for treatment.

Stand Assist Sling

Stand assist slings are used for patients using a sit-to-stand lift and should never be used with any other type of lift.

Amputee Sling

Amputee slings are designed to offer extra support around the pelvis for users who have a leg amputation. The upper body is fully supported right past the shoulders, and these slings can be used in both a seated and reclined position.

Electric or Manual Lift?

Patient lifts are powered by either electricity or feature manual hydraulic power. If you’re looking for an affordable option, then a manual patient lift is always going to be the best choice. But you shouldn’t make your decision based on this alone as manual lifts may not be suitable for all users.

A powered lift is far easier to operate, especially for the caregiver who won’t need to use any physical strength. For patients who have fallen to the ground, a powered lift can usually be self-operated so that they can independently assist themselves. Moreover, they can take greater weights and so may be better suited for larger patients who can be moved more safely.

If you are caring for someone on a long-term basis, the ease of use of a powered lift may be worth the investment. However, for short-term care or less intense needs, a manual lift would be a good choice.

Lift Weight Carrying Capacity

Choosing a lift with the correct carrying capacity is essential for the safety of both the patient and the caregiver. Using a lift for a larger patient that isn’t designed for this could result in a serious accident and in these cases, a bariatric lift should be considered. These lifts are designed with much higher weight capacities to help transport bigger patients safely.

A regular patient lift may have a weight capacity anywhere between 300 and 700 lbs. However, some of the best bariatric patient lifts may be able to transport up to 1000 lbs.

Lift Height Capacity

When choosing the right height capacity, you should consider two things; the height of the ceiling and how high the patient needs to be lifted. There are many adjustable height lifts that allow you to move the patient from as high as the mattress all the way down to the floor.

Lift Dimensions

It’s important that the lift you choose comfortably fits into the room you intend to use it. If you’re short on floor space then a ceiling lift might be a better option. However, even when choosing a floor-based lift, you will need to ensure that the base can comfortably move around obstructions or through doorways. For narrow spaces, it may be worth looking for a lift with an adjustable base. 


As well as thinking about the size of the lift, it’s also important to think about how easily it will move around the home. If you’re installing a ceiling lift, you will need to take accurate measurements to ensure that the lift can move freely between rooms.

For floor-based lifts, you must consider whether the device can fit through doorways and around corners or through narrow corridors. You should take measurements before investing in your lift and source something appropriate.

As we have already discussed, choosing a life whose base can freely move around obstacles like the bed, chairs, and other furnishings is essential. If you need the lift in various rooms in the house, a portable lift is definitely an important consideration.

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