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Lifts and slings: learnings from the Expo

We will be posting quite a bit about some of the users we met at Abilities Expo this past weekend, both in terms of wheelchair positioning and other kinds of support. It's all part of the need for 24/7 support that provides optimal function and comfort,  while reducing users' pain and caregivers' burden.

Several users were sitting on full body "hammock" lift slings, a sling style that is  hard to put on and remove since a person is sitting on part of the sling, under the heaviest part of the body. As most people know, sitting on a sling all day is not considered ideal, since even under clothing, the edges and material can irritate skin, cause heat buildup, and are simply uncomfortable.

So that is how we learned that some caregivers aren't familiar with divided leg slings, sometimes called a U-sling, which are easier to place and therefore usually don't require that the user sit on one all day. Instead, when it's time to transfer, they can be placed in a couple of minutes, even by one caregiver. The caregiver places the back first, then lifts each leg in turn to place the "legs" of the sling, around each leg. Of course, getting the size right is critical, so there are measuring charts on line.

We also heard talk of toilet slings. In most cases, since these have only a tiny opening, these are impractical for using for toileting, and really don't have much practical use in other situations.

Often a mesh rather than solid material sling is best since it is easier to manipulate. Some people may think that mesh is more irritating to the skin, but the truth is, a user shouldn't be in the sling longer than it takes for toileting or transfer, and the tugging that positioning a thicker, denser material requires could injure the skin far more.

Not all mesh is created equal, of course. And you will want a sling with "head support" for someone with a weak neck, but it may not need to come up high into the head, which can impede breathing.

Another reason caregivers gave for users' being seated above the sling was that they only had manual lifts, that require cranking, so they do transfers as seldom as possible. In some cases, it appeared that caregivers and users were unaware that the prices for power lifts have come way down. A quick Web search reveals perfectly serviceable models at prices just above $1000.

Sometimes you will hear that a power lift isn't usable on carpet. But pushing a button to lift someone has nothing to do with the floor surface. As for pushing someone in a lift, most caregivers can do it unless the carpet is very thick or textured, or the patient very large, but you shouldn't need to push far since you decide where to initiate the transfer into the lift in the first place. So it generally is not necessary to replace flooring to use a lift.

The hardest part of carpet in lifting a fairly sizeable person is opening the lift legs, which for most power lifts is still a manual process using a lever, but that is the same as for a manual lift and gets easier with practice, angling the lift a little, and a little oil. Getting powered leg opening is generally not worth the money and can be unreliable.

In lifting, you have more power than you may think!


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Your blog is so encouraging. Thanks for posting.


Informative blog.

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