Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lifting Solutions For Caregivers

You already know how many potential pitfalls there are when caring for someone, whether by profession or as a family member. You usually stumble into most of them if you are not a caregiver by profession. Even professionals come upon some surprises.

One of the big issues to confront as a caregiver is lifting, especially if the individual under your watch is not ambulatory. However, some of the more serious injuries occur with individuals who have some ambulation; it is easy to let your guard down as a caregiver when you believe that someone can usually make a transfer from one location to another fairly easily.

Of course, preventing falls to the individual under your care is essential. Your own health and safety are also of primary importance. Keeping those outcomes foremost in our minds, let's look at various options for assisting with a lift or lifting the individual.

For assisting with transfers from one location to another consider these common, but essential tools:
  • grab bars and other support poles that can be placed around the home

  • transfer boards, benches and disks that allow the individual some control over his/her movements and are typically used for bathing, moving into or out of vehicles, chairs or beds

  • gait belts which can be placed around the individual to provide a wide, safe area to grab onto and hold while someone is trying to walk; handles are available to use with the gait belt to make the process even easier for the caregiver; vests and other devices are becoming more common to ensure even more support while assisting an individual to a standing position

For lifting someone who is not ambulatory, it is prudent to use one of the following types of patient lifts:

  • "Hoyer" so named for the company that first manufactured the lift that was patented in 1955 by R.R. Stratton as "floor crane with adjustable legs." The patent uses the analogy of an automotive crane used to lift engines. This type of lift uses a sling (often the sling used depends on the physical situation of the individual needing it, for example, an amputee sling, or the reason for the usage, such as a "toileting" sling that has an opening to allow the individual to be lowered onto a commode or toilet.

  • Stand-assist lift, which cradles the back with a sling and provides reinforcement and padding at the legs and knees while the caregiver pulls the individual forward into a standing position. The advantage of this lift is for those who cannot bend easily, or who have an adverse reaction to be lifted in a seated position as happens with the "Hoyer."

  • Easy-Pivot lift, which we have blogged about previously. Developed by a Coloradoan who became a quadrapeligic as a young man and resisted what he called the indignities and discomfort of the "Hoyer" for both himself and his caregiving wife. This lift works with an individual already in a seated position, requiring a sling beneath the buttocks and around the knees. The individual "drapes" over a padded front piece and is safely lifted and moved to another seated position. It works well for those with little to no leg movements or strength so cannot easily be lifted to a standing position.

  • Ceiling lifts have become increasingly more popular as individuals are cared for in the home. The other lifts mentioned above have wide (mostly adjustable) bases that can be altered somewhat to fit around chairs, beds and commodes. However, they are often too wide for use in a home, especially a smaller home, and cannot be used effectively to transfer someone to most bathtubs. Ceiling lifts can be mounted in every room of the house, including some that offer a track to connect through doorways. The patient or caregiver controls the movement of the lift along the track with a remote.

  • Freestanding overhead lifts offer a more convenient and often less expensive way to provide some of the same advantages of a ceiling lift. This A-framed mechanism is placed over a bed or between transferring locations. It is most useful for lifting and transferring individuals who are not moved among widely divergent places in the home since the frame has limitations.

Caregiving is hard, and sometimes dangerous, whether you do this work professionally or as a family member or friend. Please remember to honor the two key principles of preventing falls and further injury to the individual you are caring for AND preventing injury to yourself. Be smart about lifting and consider using some of these tools. Let Capabilities help you assess the situation. We do free home assessments to work with you and your family on what solutions might be best. Contact us for more information. Please post your ideas on caregiving and tools you have used using the link provided below or sending us an email.

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