Patient Lifts: Lightening the Load for Caregivers

Lauren Caggiano

Written by Lauren Caggiano on Wed May 24 2023.

Man with woman sitting in wheelchair

Patient Lifts: Lightening the Load for Caregivers

Caring for a family member with limited mobility is a reality for many caregivers. People with limited mobility often need help to move in and out of bed and around the house and might not be able to perform instrumental activities of daily living on their own. 

This requires a great deal of strength, and over time it can become challenging to sustain. However, you don’t have to carry this load — literally — alone. So investing in a patient lift is worth considering its long-term worth.

What Is a Patient Lift?

As the name suggests, patient lifts are helpful additions to a home because they lift or transfer patients from one spot to another. They can help patients during everyday activities, like getting in and out of bed, moving from a wheelchair to a bed, and in and out of the bathtub. They make it easier for caregivers to get the job done without the extra strain. Best of all, lift assistance devices are covered by Medicare Part B.

When Should Caregivers Use a Patient Lift?

Because many different types of patient transfer equipment are on the market, you might wonder which is best for you and your loved one’s situation. A mechanical lift is beneficial when caring for people with limited mobility, poor balance, minimal strength, and/or weight-bearing restrictions. The harder it is for a person to sit or stand independently, the more likely they would benefit from such a resource. 

“In later life, reduction in mobility leads to loss of independence and compromised quality of life,” said Professor Afroditi Stathi, Ph.D., chief investigator from the University of Birmingham, U.K., told Healthline. 

However, your loved one’s physical health is just one piece of the puzzle. Their cognitive state is another point to consider. For example, people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurological conditions can also struggle with mobility. In this way, they can benefit from the extra support a patient lift can provide.

Of course, care recipients aren’t the only ones who can enjoy an increased quality of life. Caregivers will appreciate the fact that patient lifts can give them some relief. Overexertion injuries from caregiving are nothing to dismiss, as they can lead to more serious health problems and pain. 

What Types of Lifts Are Available?

There are many patient lifts and accessories on the market, each designed to cater to different mobility needs and assist with specific activities of daily living. Most lifts come in both manual and electric varieties. 

Manual models use hydraulic power and are typically the most affordable for home use. Electric models rely on rechargeable battery power or plug directly into an outlet. While this type can come with a heftier price tag, they’re easier for caregivers.

Caregivers might also want to think about other factors when exploring options. For instance, height is one variable. Some models are able to lift a patient off the floor, while others can only go as low as a chair or a bed. So the weight limit might matter, too. 

Bariatric or heavy-duty models can lift heavier individuals and are typically electric. Last, it’s important to determine how many people the lift requires to operate. Some devices are manageable for one person, while others are set up for two people.

Here’s a look at a few types of patient lifts and their features and benefits:

Sit-to-Stand Lifts

You might see these marketed as “stand assist lifts” and “stand up lifts.” These models help older adults who can sit up on their own and bear some weight but can’t safely transfer from sitting to standing (and vice versa). People in this situation often lose confidence in their ability to move around safely. 

Discouraged, they might feel like they can only use a wheelchair or stay in bed. Both of these can mean the person loses strength and balance. On the bright side, sit-to-stand lifts allow a person with limited physical abilities to remain more active.

Floor-Based Sling Lifts

A portable floor-based lift is a solution that functions as a crane-like device with a wide, wheeled base used for transfers of all kinds and for transport between rooms. When evaluating a particular product, it’s important to consider the task you have in mind or and whether potential models will fit through your home’s doorways and walkways.

McKesson Hydraulic Patient Lift, 146-13023SV, 1 Each
McKesson Hydraulic Patient Lift

Price: $720.00

Overhead Sling Lifts

Electric ceiling lifts are versatile in that they can either use permanently mounted overhead track systems or freestanding overhead tracks to transfer patients. One perk is that they don’t have the large footprint of a floor-based model.

Types of Patient Lift Slings

Slings are the fabric pieces that wrap around the body and attach to the lift. Full-body slings offer upper body and head support, while specialized slings help with bathing and toilet use. When choosing a sling for your loved one, check that the size and weight limits, recommended care instructions, comfort, and functionality work with your lift device and needs.

Does Medicare Cover Patient Lifts for Home Use?

You might be concerned about the costs associated with a patient lift. Medicare Part B covers durable medical equipment (DME) deemed medically necessary. A doctor must sign off on using the lift at home in order for Medicare to cover it. 

Medicare beneficiaries may have the option of renting or purchasing lifts. Costs may vary depending on a few factors. Older adults and their caregivers can learn more about coverage of patient lifts on Medicare.gov.

You don’t have to go it alone. In-home care agencies can help advise you on what durable medical equipment is necessary for your loved one to stay happy and healthy as they age in place. In addition, occupational therapists and physical therapists can be helpful resources regarding best practices for patient lifts. 

One last important point: If you think a loved one with limited mobility may benefit from a patient lift, their healthcare provider is the best source for a mobility assessment.

Need More Help?

Have questions about patient lifts or how to use them? Our team of Caregiving Specialists is here to answer your questions 24/7. Give us a call at (800) 696-CARE, email support@carewell.com, or click the live chat feature at the bottom of the page.

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Lauren Caggiano
Lauren Caggiano

Lauren Caggiano is an Indiana-based copywriter/editor, ACE certified personal trainer and ACE certified health coach. She has a passion for health and wellness and helping people live fuller and richer lives.