If you’ve never been able to weight bear, you’re probably already familiar with hoists and hoisting. If transferring is more recently becoming difficult or unsafe, this might be something new to you that you’re needing to consider now. Some adults have shared that they resisted using a hoist for as long as possible, wanting to maintain their independence and because they saw it as extra equipment and extra hassle. That’s totally understandable, although if you’ve been assessed as needing to use a hoist when transferring, for example from your wheelchair to your bed or onto a toilet or shower seat, it will be to do with ensuring your safety and the safety of your partner / personal assistant(s) who need appropriate equipment to assist you to move in a safe way and also take care to avoid injuring themselves.
Your physio and OT can give your partner / PAs advice about safe lifting in general and advise on the best equipment to help. This is often a hoist which is usually a strong metal frame which has a lifting mechanism operated manually or powered by a battery or electricity. A sling on a ‘spreader bar’ is suspended from the frame or lifting arm to support you as you’re lifted. There are different types (see below) and your OT will be able to advise on the most suitable one for you and organise getting it. All PAs should be trained in safe ‘moving and handling’ – your OT or the supplier of your hoist will make sure your partner / PAs have the training they need to use it 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 (such as the NHS or Local Authority).
Page last reviewed / updated: April 2021
Next review due: April 2022
Electric hoists have a power pack / battery which will need charging when not in use. All electric hoists must have emergency stop buttons and manual release mechanisms so that you 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 permanent ceiling track hoist can’t be fitted or when the need for the hoist is temporary - for example if there isn't enough room for a mobile hoist or a house move is imminent.
A Mobile Hoist
A mobile hoist may theoretically be used anywhere in the home, but there’ll need to be 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 Foldable Or Portable Hoist
Many people 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 OT and / or physio won’t usually be able to arrange 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 needs. They can also help you think about the following questions:
- 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 is it to move and turn once ‘up’?
- Once folded, is it manageable for your partner / PAs?
- Will it fit in your vehicle (considering all the other luggage and equipment you may have)?
- Is it compatible with your 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 need help with funding, realistically this can take time, so another thing to think about is how soon you’re travelling.
If timing is tight (or you don’t think you’ll use the hoist much outside this holiday for example) 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 others, companies others have used and possible funders.
"We go away several times a year, mostly in UK but sometimes by ferry to France. Since I started using a hoist for all my transfers, we bought an Invacare Birdie Compact hoist from a brilliant online and affordable supplier who deliver quickly and also can supply VAT exempt if applicable. The hoist folds up neatly and can be wheeled into our WAV up the ramp, then (this does require a bit of strength) my husband lifts it onto the step behind the front passenger seat and ties it in for the journey. I also use it at home to access, for example, an armchair, or in our previous house, the bath (we had 2 cut-outs for the hoist in the bottom of the bath panel). We did a lot of research before buying it and we’re really pleased with it. We’ve had this hoist for about 8 years and have taken it everywhere. It had a new battery a couple of years ago, but that’s the only maintenance it’s needed so far." Sally who has SMA Type 3
Your hoist will need a sling for you to sit or lie in. There are different sorts available, for example:
- standard slings made of polyester that can be easily washed and dried
- net for a bathing sling allowing water to drain away and for easy washing and drying.
Most importantly, any sling needs to be individually selected for you so that it:
- suits your weight and height
- gives you the support you need, for example if your muscle weakness makes your 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. Also, it’s important that slings are checked prior to every use, to ensure they remain safe to use and aren’t worn.
Your OT should be able to supply the hoisting you need at home, free via the NHS or the Local Authority.
If you want to apply for help with funding for a portable hoist, Support Services at SMA UK may be able to 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 needs and that the NHS or Local Authority is unable to provide funding
- your quote from the supplier detailing costs, including any extra accessories and delivery. Hoists are usually exempt from Value Added Tax (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