How To Use A Hoyer Lift At Home
Article originally featured on Forbes.com
Hoyer lifts—which are designed to transfer patients from place to place, such as from their bed to the bathroom or to a chair—make it possible for many people to continue living at home. The lifts can significantly improve the lives of those with mobility issues who otherwise couldn’t move from one area of their home to another on their own.
There are many types of Hoyer lifts, sold at various prices. It’s important for caregivers who will be operating these lifts to receive adequate training, as using lifts improperly can injure the patient or the caregiver.
“They’re great tools,” says Cay Ambrose, a rehabilitation clinical support specialist at New Jersey-based BAYADA Home Health Care. She’s the director of the BAYADAbility Program, which provides services for clients with long-term functional deficits. “If used properly, mechanical lifts can allow for more independence,” she says.
What Is a Hoyer Lift?
Patient lifts, as they’re formally known, help caregivers lift and transfer patients from spot to spot. They’re used in medical facilities and in people’s homes. Because Hoyer makes some of the most popular versions, these devices are commonly referred to as Hoyer lifts.
Lifts are “really for people who are bed-bound, and that could be due to things like chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease or even advanced dementia,” says Lisa Cugasi, a registered nurse and director of nursing at Comfort Keepers, which provides in-home senior care globally. People who can’t bear their own weight for any length of time can benefit from these lifts.”
Though Hoyer lifts are commonly used to assist seniors, Ambrose points out they can also help disabled children. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s guidelines state healthcare workers shouldn‘t lift more than 35 pounds.
Types of Hoyer Lifts
There are a variety of Hoyer lifts. The most popular tend to be power lifts, says Ambrose, because they’re so simple to use. The type of lift someone should use depends on a few factors, such as price and what your insurance will cover.
Power Hoyer Lifts
Electric patient lifts—which can be plugged into the wall or powered by rechargeable batteries—are usually considered the easiest to operate. “I can push a button to raise it and lower it,” says Ambrose.
Average cost: $3,000
Manual Hoyer Lifts
This type of device is also called a hydraulic lift, and it’s the only kind Medicare will pay for, says Ambrose. Manual lifts are powered by a hydraulic pump that is relatively easy to use, but more difficult than simply pressing a button on an electric lift.
Average cost: $400 to $500
Sit-to-Stand Hoyer Lifts
Sit-to-stand lifts help secure patients as they shift from a seated position to a standing position (as opposed to helping someone who is lying down move into a chair, for example).
“It’s almost like a cross between the manual one and the power lift one, but it’s for people who are a little bit stronger,” says Adrianna Ware, a registered nurse and nurse educator with CareAcademy, which provides online caregiver training. If the person being lifted is able to assist with the lift in any way, a sit-to-stand lift is often a great choice, she says.
Average cost: At least $1,000
Ceiling Hoyer Lifts
While most patient lifts are free-standing, ceiling lifts are—as the name suggests—attached to the ceiling. A track is mounted along the ceiling, which helps save floor space—one reason why some people think they’re particularly convenient.
“The benefit is it’s up in the ceiling and you don’t have a big clunky machine somewhere,” says Ambrose. But they’re expensive, depending on how elaborate the track is, she says.
Average cost: Upwards of $20,000
Pro Tips for Using a Hoyer Lift at Home
Patient lifts can be extremely helpful—but it’s vital for everyone’s safety to use them correctly, experts agree.
Consider these tips for using one at home.
Before using a patient lift, you should be professionally trained. Often, the medical supply company that delivers your lift can show you how to use it. Otherwise, contact a local home health company that can help you learn to operate the equipment at home. There are also YouTube videos that provide tutorials online.
As the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) points out, patients can fall from lifts, causing injuries like head trauma and fractures, and even death. For this reason, it’s important to receive training—and do lots of practice runs—before operating a Hoyer lift.
Beyond training, the most important thing to know “is that it should be operated by two or more people,” says Cugasi. “No one should do it by themselves.”
You also need to prepare the environment ahead of time: Remove clutter and make sure the space is clear, says Ware. You don’t want things to get in the way while the lift is in use.
Using the Right Sling
Determining which sling is appropriate depends on factors like a person’s height, weight and hip measurement, according to the FDA. Caregiver preference and what’s comfortable for them is another important factor, says Ambrose. Common types of slings include:
Universal slings, or U-slings, which support the entire body and often make the most sense for transporting people from bed to the toilet.
Full body slings, which offer a high back and solid head support.
Standing slings, which suit those with partial mobility, as well as head and neck control.
Lifting and Lowering
Once the person to be lifted is safely secured in the sling, you’re ready to lift and lower. First, lift them 2 inches and do a quick safety check: Is their weight spread evenly between the straps so they won’t slide out?
Once the person’s weight you’re lifting is evenly distributed, slowly continue lifting, going only as high as necessary. Using gentle pressure, lower the patient toward the bed, wheelchair, toilet or other receiving surface, the FDA advises. Make sure the person’s body is in the correct position before you release their weight. When you release, don’t let the sling bar hit the person lifted.
Once the person is lowered, detach the sling, being careful not to hurt their skin.
Ware notes that caregivers should never lift someone from the floor. And it’s important that the person operating the lift is able to see the face of the person being lifted at all times. “They should never have their back to you,” she says.
Finally, throughout the entire process, comfort the person being lifted. “We’re telling them, ‘Don’t worry, you’re very safe, we’re here, we’ve got you,’” says Cugasi, “because some people, especially those with dementia, get very scared when they feel themselves lifted off the bed.”
How to Get a Hoyer Lift for Home Use
If you want your private insurance company or Medicare to cover the cost of a Hoyer lift, you need a prescription from a doctor. Most people purchase or rent their Hoyer lifts through a local medical supply store. There are also shops where you can buy refurbished devices at a lower cost, says Cugasi.