My husband was injured in a car accident and is now a quadriplegic. I have been using a moveable patient-lifter to transfer him from his wheelchair to the bed or commode chair. I am finding this maneuver to be very cumbersome, and I am also worried I might injure my back trying to facilitate these transfers. We are also having a “storage” issue with this equipment and find it is always “in the way.” Do you have any suggestions?
Red Wing, Minnesota
With many of our clients, we have found use of a ceiling-mounted lifting device to be a terrific solution for permanent lifting issues. This type of equipment will not only eliminate the physical strain of operating and moving a rolling lift, but also eliminate your storage problem.
Ceiling mounted lifts, (also known as overhead lifts and track lifts) consist of a battery-powered hoist that is guided by an overhead track system to lift, transfer and transport individuals with physical limitations between the bed, wheelchair, toilet, bathtub, shower chair, changing table, etc. Ceiling-mounted lifts not only operate vertically (up and down) but also horizontally (side to side). The vertical movement is operated by a motor that is set in motion using a control panel on the hoist or by a handheld remote control. The horizontal motion can also be motorized depending on the unit installed.
Ceiling lifts utilize a sling or harness to support individuals as they are lifted. Manufacturers typically offer their own line of slings and/or body supports to be used with their lifts. A variety of slings and/or body supports are available to address multiple lifting and transfer needs. Some examples include slings made to support individuals in a reclined position, slings made for toileting and bathing applications, as well as slings and/or body supports made to support individuals during unweighted walking or gait training.
Track systems are customized to your home layout to meet your configuration and transfer needs. Commonly, a track system will be located over the bed (for transfers between a wheelchair and bed), as well as in the bathroom to facilitate transfers onto the toilet and into a bathing area. Depending on your home configuration, it may be possible to provide continuous tracking between the bed and bathroom.
Most installations require reinforcing the ceiling in all locations where the track will be mounted. Architectural modifications may be required at doorways between rooms to allow the track to pass through the header above a doorway (if applicable) and to provide a continuous, flat ceiling.
The units are typically designed with many safety features that allow for smooth stop and start, as well as emergency locking and lowering features. Depending on the manufacturer, various methods for charging batteries are utilized to ensure continual reliability of the equipment.
There are a variety of manufacturers and equipment options available. The following questions may help you decide which product is right for you, your husband, and those that care for him:
• Do you need a model that allows for independent use by your husband or will a caregiver be operating the equipment?
• Do you need a system that will allow you to transfer the motor and body support/sling to a different track location in the home (in the event the bathroom is not located adjacent to the bedroom)?
• Does the manufacturer have the type of sling or body support needed by your husband?
• Does the unit support the size and weight of your husband?
• Does your husband need to have a sling that provides an opening for toileting and bathing?
• Can the lift go into the tub or shower area?
• Does the track system offer configurations to address paths of travel needed between transfer points (such as a turns and curves)?
• Due to architectural issues, do you need a model that can operate around the header of a door (such as a door between a bedroom and bathroom)?
• Is the finish of the rail system at ceiling important to you (such as white, chrome, etc.)?
• Does the model offer useful accessories?
• Does the vendor offer demonstrations for you to try out the sling and/or body supports to ensure proper selection?
• Does the system come with a warranty? If so, how long?
• Who installs the system? Is installation included in the price quoted?
Lift technology has opened the door to independence for many of our clients. If this is something you and your husband are interested in, I would recommend you meet with a product representative who can give you a demonstration on features that can help you not only today, but also into the future.
Do you have a question for Jane and Accessibility Design? We’ll cover all of your questions in future issues of Home Access Answers. Please contact us: 952-925-0301, www.accessibilitydesign.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jane Hampton, president of Accessibility Design, founded the company in 1992 to enhance lives through design and project management. The company provides design, consultation, project management, and product recommendation services, specializing in home access for individuals with disabilities at all stages of life.