Whenever you’re lifting your child, you need to take care to avoid injuring your back. Physios and occupational therapists (OTs) can provide advice on the best ways to lift and move your child. They can also provide advice on equipment such as hoists.
Hoists provide a mechanical way of lifting and moving your child from one place or position to another (sometimes called transferring) . You may need a hoist if moving your child puts too much strain on you or there's a risk of harming your child when you move them. So, you may need a hoist when your child gets bigger and heavier, to move them from their bed into their wheelchair, or from their wheelchair onto a toilet or a shower seat.
A hoist is usually a strong metal frame which has a lifting mechanism operated manually or powered by battery or electricity. A sling on a ‘spreader bar’ is suspended from the frame or lifting arm to support your child as they're lifted.
Your OT will be able to assess your child and your needs, advise on the most suitable hoist and slings and arrange provision. They and / or the supplier of your hoist will make sure you have the training you need to use the hoist safely.
Any hoists and slings you have should be serviced regularly as advised by the manufacturer. This may be carried out by the manufacturer or the supplier- or arranged by the local community equipment service if your hoist is supplied though statutory services.
Page last reviewed / updated: April 2021
Next review due: April 2022
Electronic hoists have a power pack / battery which will need charging. A powered hoist will need plugging in to an electric socket. All electric hoists must have emergency stop buttons and manual release mechanisms so that your child can be lowered without battery power if there's an emergency.
A Fixed or Ceiling Track Hoist
A fixed or ceiling track hoist may be fitted as part of home adaptations, for example to provide you with hoisting straight through from the bedroom to the bathroom.
A Gantry Hoist
A gantry hoist is designed to stay in one place and is usually positioned with the frame over the bed. It may be suggested as an option where a ceiling track hoist can't be fitted. It can also be suggested as a short term measure if you are moving house soon or awaiting adaptations and there isn't enough space for a mobile hoist.
A Mobile Hoist
A mobile hoist may theoretically be used anywhere in the home, but you’ll need a good amount of space to move and turn one. It’s important not to have furniture and other clutter in the way and, as the castors on most mobile hoists are small and liable to catch on uneven surfaces, you’ll need to be careful with loose rugs or worn carpets. Doorways and hallways need to be wide enough to move through.
A Portable or Foldable Hoist
Many families find it worth having a portable hoist in addition to whatever hoist they have at home. It can be very useful for day trips, holidays and visiting or staying with friends or relatives.
Portable hoists come in a range of sizes and weights and vary in the ways they fold down or dismantle for travelling. Your child’s OT and / or physio won’t usually be able to organise funding for a portable hoist, but it’s important to ask their opinion as they should be able to advise about safe and suitable models for your child’s needs. They can also help you think further about the questions you might want to ask when you're looking for one, such as:
- Can you have a free demonstration – either at home or at an exhibition or at a supplier’s showroom?
- How heavy is it?
- How does it fold down and open up? Can this be done by one person or does it need two?
- How easy it is to move and turn once ‘up’?
- Once folded, is it manageable for you / another carer / PA?
- Will it fit in your vehicle (considering all the other luggage and equipment you will have!)
- Is it compatible with your child's slings?
- What’s the cost? Is delivery included? How long a wait between ordering and delivery?
- What are maintenance and service requirements? (Often, any warranty is only valid if appropriate servicing and maintenance can be proved.) How and where could it be serviced? How much is servicing likely to cost?
If you’re likely to use a portable hoist several times a year, then buying one is an option that many people choose. If you do need funding assistance, realistically this can take time, so another consideration is how soon you’re travelling.
If timing is tight (or you don’t think you’ll use the hoist much outside this holiday) then hiring may be an option to explore / compare. Several companies hire equipment, including portable hoists – though choice of models may be limited. Delivery and collection costs can vary a lot depending on your distance from the hirer, so it’s worth searching for a few quotes. If you’re travelling abroad, you’ll need to tell the hirer, in case there’s any additional cost.
Contact SMA UK for ideas about makes of portable hoists that have worked for other families, hire companies they’ve used and possible funders.
Your hoist will need a sling for your child to sit or lie in. There are different sorts available, for example:
- standard slings are made of polyester and can be easily washed and dried
- net is used for bathing slings allowing water to drain away and for easy washing and drying.
Most importantly, any sling needs to be individually selected for your child so that it:
- suits their weight and height
- gives them the support they need, for example if their muscle weakness makes their head control difficult
- is suitable for where and how you want to use it.
All slings need to be compatible with the hoist you're using. All slings should be checked before every use to make sure no stitching is coming undone. Faulty slings must be replaced as a matter or urgency; contact your OT or physio for replacements.
Your OT should be able to supply the hoisting you need at home, free via the NHS or the Local Authority. If parents are separated or children spend a lot of time with grandparents or other relatives this is unlikely to be funded as well, though it’s worth checking. You might consider a portable hoist as an option – though this will need to be privately funded
If you want to apply for help with funding, Support Services at SMA UK can suggest charities that may provide a grant. Most charities will need:
- a letter from your OT/physio to say that the hoist you've chosen is suitable, safe and meets your child’s needs and that the NHS is unable to provide funding
- your quote from the supplier detailing costs, including any extra accessories and delivery. Hoists are usually exempt from VAT because they've been ‘designed solely for disabled people’ (the general rule for whether an item is VAT exempt). Ask the supplier to check for you.
You can find related information in the Living With SMA section:
Funding For Equipment