A New Perspective on Patient Lifts

But if I use that, I’ll be giving up my independence. I don’t want to get lazy. I’ll get out of shape.

Seating & wheeled professionals are accustomed to those comments from consumers reluctant to use wheelchairs.

But Amber Perez, ADN, BSB, CSPHP, hears those worries as director of clinical services for Handicare, manufacturer of patient lifts.

Patient lifts — those that can be mounted to ceilings and walls, and portable ones that wheel from room to room — aren’t the first types of equipment discussed for clients with complex seating & mobility needs. But talk to Perez about the importance of patient lifts, and the benefits and client concerns sound very familiar.

For example, Perez said clients’ transfer needs are not “one size fits all.”

“We tend to put people in a box and say, ‘You need a wheelchair and a sliding board, and here’s your standard set of devices that you’ll need at home,’” Perez explained. “To me, the consideration has to be made about what are the changes that that patient experiences throughout the course of their illness and even throughout the course of the day.”

She cites muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s disease as examples.

“As the day progresses, things become more difficult,” she said. “They’ve exhausted their resources. If you’re assessing a patient during the prime part of their day, when they’ve got the most energy and they’ve not exerted themselves, they may be able to demonstrate something that they can’t necessarily do at night.”

As with complex rehab seating & mobility, there’s a hierarchy of patient lifts, Perez said. “A non-powered stand aid is just like it sounds: It’s not mechanical, there’s no sling. The patient still can demonstrate that upper-body strength to transfer into the device, but then a caregiver might push them into the bathroom. Then there’s the next level: The powered sit-to-stand is a really great device. [Manufacturers] make very small, compact versions that will fit through a door in a house, that will fit into a bathroom, and they can be used for a huge variety of patients. Patients don’t have to have weight-bearing ability; they just have to have weight-bearing permission.”

Beyond the obvious function of transferring wheelchair users, patient lifts can offer clinical benefits, Perez noted: “It brings the patient to an upright, standing position. An upright position changes the patient’s cardiovascular system; it helps them to regulate their blood pressure more easily. We know that patients who use wheelchairs have blood pressure issues pretty traditionally. And anytime you weight bear on your large bones, you are preventing calcium from leaching out.”

Back to that first challenge — that many wheelchair users are reluctant to use lifts. Clinicians can help change that perspective, Perez said, by “really encouraging the patient that [using a lift] doesn’t mean we’re reducing their independence, and it doesn’t mean you’re giving up — but understanding that that is the natural progression of this illness and it’s the natural characteristic of this illness.”

The seating team can point out, Perez added, that clients might not need the lift for every transfer — but it’s there to help when needed.

“Yes, we want you to be independent as long as possible. It doesn’t mean that you’re not if you use a device. You have to take care of yourself so you can take care of yourself.”

This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of Mobility Management.

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