You may have always needed lifting or this might be something new (and possibly strange) to you; and now you’re taller and heavier, your parents and PAs (Personal Assistants) need to take care to avoid injuring their backs as well as make sure you’re lifted safely. Your physio and OT can give advice on this and equipment that will help, such as hoists.
Hoists provide a mechanical way of lifting and moving you from one place or position to another (sometimes called transferring), for example if your muscle weakness makes it too difficult for you to get from your bed into your wheelchair, or from your 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 electricity. A sling on a ‘spreader bar’ is suspended from the frame or lifting arm to support you as you’re lifted.
Your OT will be able to assess you and your parents / PAs needs, advise on the most suitable hoist and slings and organise getting them. They and / or the supplier of your hoist will make sure your parents / PAs have the training they 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 (such as the NHS or Local Authority or Education Authority).
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 into an electric socket. 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 ceiling track hoist can’t be fitted or if a hoist is required just in the short term.
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 fund 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 parents / PA?
- Will it fit in your family 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 your parents 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 your parents 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 used and possible funders.
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.
Your OT should be able to supply the hoisting you need at home, free via the NHS or the Local Authority. If your parents are separated or you spend a lot of time with say grandparents or other relatives, this is unlikely to be funded as well, though it’s worth checking. You might think about a portable hoist as an option – though this will need to be privately funded.
If your parents 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 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 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 Equipment