Hoyer lifts, or patient lifts, are essential when caring for people who struggle with mobility. They are devices that are able to transfer patients that have limited degrees of mobility from one place to another. Hoyer lifts are often seen in hospitals and nursing homes but are also becoming commonly used in households. While they minimize discomfort for a patient, they also provide a great amount of aid to caregivers. Hoyer lifts can do the lifting that would otherwise be the responsibility of the caregiver, who may not always be able to lift the person they are caring for and may have their own health issues that limit their strength.
Buying a hoyer lift may seem daunting at first, as it is a large piece of equipment that is costly and may be new to you, but with the right information and research, you can find the lift that works best for you and that can help you tremendously while caregiving.
What is a Hoyer Lift?
Patient lifts, or hoyer lifts and hoists as they are also often called, are assistive devices that help transfer patients with limited degrees of mobility from one place to another with the least amount of discomfort on the patient’s end as well as the caregiver’s.
To clarify, hoyer lifts are a way to refer to patient lifts, but because Hoyer is the most well-known brand, patient lifts are sometimes simply called hoyer lifts. To avoid confusion, we will refer to patient lifts from the brand Hoyer as Hoyer lifts with a capital H, and patient lifts as hoyer lifts, with a lowercase H.
The general functionality of a hoyer lift involves a sling that is laid under the person that needs assistance in moving, which is attached to a mechanical arm that lifts the person into the air. Some lifts are set up on tracks but many tend to be on wheels that can be moved in the desired direction.
For patients with highly limited mobility, hoyer lifts are a good choice for limiting accidents and strenuous effort from the caregiver. In the absence of these lifts, many caregivers may have to lift those they are caring for physically, which is dangerous and can even lead to health problems for the caregiver. Many caregivers have had back injuries or developed chronic back issues due to transfers without patient lifts. It is encouraging to know that there are many affordable options for patient lifts, even for home use.
When Should I Consider Buying a Hoyer Lift?
Before using any kind of medical assistive device, seeking the advice of a medical professional is always advisable. Any patient with a condition that limits his or her mobility can generally benefit from a hoyer lift. However, it is recommended to use a hoyer lift when the patient reaches a point at which their mobility is severely limited.
For a patient who is able to use a walker, and who needs minimal assistance in getting in and out of bed, a hoyer lift may not be a necessity. In cases where a patient is unable to perform these simpler tasks, a hoyer lift will be of great help, especially if the caregiver is not able to sustain the weight of the patient or provide the assistance required. If a patient is completely immobile, then a hoyer lift may be absolutely necessary.
Hoyer lifts are beneficial to the patient, but they help the caregiver as well. Many caregivers may not be able to carry the weight of the patient on a regular basis, and it can cause health problems. A hoyer lift can help combat this.
It is important to note that hoyer lifts have also been known to pose a risk when not properly handled. Patients may fall and severely injure themselves if all safety precautions are not in place and if the device is not maintained or handled properly. This should be taken into account before purchasing a hoyer lift, as there needs to be enough people to handle the equipment carefully and minimize risks of injury. The safety procedures should be well understood, even from before the time of initial purchase.
Choosing the Right Hoyer Lift
Choosing the right hoyer lift depends on the patient’s condition and degree of mobility. Hence it is always advisable to consult with a doctor for the best approach on which type to get. There are many kinds of lifts available, and there will be something that can fit your needs.
Types of Hoyer Lifts
A hoyer lift can be manually or electrically powered.
Most lifts are mobile, with wheels to maneuver the lift across short distances.
Some may be stationary or only rotate on the spot, which is something to keep in mind when considering purchasing a hoyer lift.
Lifts also don’t always come with a sling, which makes the sling an additional necessary purchase to keep in mind.
- Manual versions of hoyer lifts function on hydraulics and a hand-pump. Manual patient lifts are often referred to as hydraulic lifts. These are often the most affordable options, and many feel more confident using a manual lift over an electric one.
- Electrically powered versions of hoyer lifts use an electric motor that can be activated with a button as opposed to the hand-pump in the manual version. These lifts are also often equipped with a manual handle so that there are no issues in case of a power cut or other similar malfunctions. They are powered by either rechargeable batteries or an electrical outlet.
There are two main types of patient lifts:
- Sling lifts are lifts that are meant to carry the entire weight of the patient and can suspend the patient in the air. There are two subtypes of sling lifts:
- Floor lifts often have a wheeled base (if they are mobile) and require a significant amount of space for patient transfer. They are not attached to a ceiling.
- Ceiling lifts are a long-term solution, often seen in hospitals and nursing homes. These lifts can be free-standing or move on tracks attached to the ceiling. If a ceiling hoyer lift is installed, a wheelchair may not be necessary, as the patient does not need to be transferred to a wheelchair from the lift to move to another room. These can be designed specifically for bathrooms, bedrooms, or for an entire house, which notably can be quite costly.
- Sit-to-stand lifts are used for patients that need assistance in going from sitting to standing. These hoyer lifts do not support the entire weight of the person and instead aid them in rising to a standing position, with a caregiver’s help and supervision. This requires the person to be able to bear some of their own weight. The sit-to-stand lift can be helpful for those recovering from an injury or other condition and can help them regain their strength, confidence, and ability. Many people find it uncomfortable to be suspended in the air, making stand assist lifts a good option for short distance transfers.
There are also different types of slings that are used in patient lifts:
- U-slings are for those who can sit up, even if just a little. The sling is designed in such a way that the patient will not be sitting inside it even when lifted, making it easy to transfer to a wheelchair or commode. They are especially useful for patients that spend a lot of time in a sitting position, such as in a wheelchair, as it is easy to get in and out of a u-sling even in a sitting position.
- Full-body type slings or hammock slings are used for those who have great difficulty with sitting up or cannot sit up at all. These swings will support the entire body, however the legs of the patient from the knee downward will remain outside the sling. Many also come with head support and degrees of customization such as padding. These slings provide much more support than the U-sling, but they require more time to get the patient into.
- Stand assist slings are slings used in sit-to-stand lifts.
- Specialized slings are other slings that can be used for a specific purpose. These slings can include toileting slings, disposable slings, mesh bathing slings, and stretcher slings. 2-point slings (connected to the lift at only two attachment points) were once used with old lifts, but are often never used anymore as they provide limited customization in positioning the patient. However, if your loved one or patient prefers a 2-point sling for their usage, then this can also be an option.
Slings are attached to the cradle of the lift, which is the crane-like device at the end of the mechanical arm. They typically have two, four, or six attachment points. Six-point cradles may be more comfortable for patients as they distribute the patient’s weight over a larger area, however, some patients may have personal preferences that feel more comfortable to them, which should be considered.
The choice that a lot of people often have to make is between a sit-to-stand lift or a sling lift. If the person has some mobility but needs help in rising from a sitting position, then a sit-to-stand lift can often suffice. Sling lifts are for those who have very limited degrees of mobility.
Then comes the choice between a manual or powered lift. A manual hoyer lift is usually less expensive and doesn’t depend on any power source. However, manual lifts do require some labor from the caregiver to use as they are operated with a hand-pump. An electronically powered lift will be more expensive but will require virtually no strenuous effort from a caregiver.
Portability also plays a factor. A lift that runs on tracks, which limits movement in more than one direction or is not mobile, may not be the best option if the patient needs to move to multiple different places, or requires assistance in various tasks.
Things To Consider When Buying A Hoyer Lift
- Weight capacity: Lifts have varying weight capacities, so it is important to choose one that will be able to lift the person you are caring for safely and easily.
- Stability: Mobile lifts often come with locking casters that add to stability. It is also helpful to make sure that the base of the lift opens to accommodate a wheelchair or commode with enough stability.
- Range of Lift Heights: It is important to ensure that the lift can raise the patient from multiple heights, even from the floor, in case a patient has fallen.
- Manual override and emergency controls: Powered hoyer lifts should have manual overrides that help the caregiver gain control of the lift even during a power cut or other similar problem. Caregivers should also be able to stop the motor manually in case of an emergency.
- Sling type: This is very important, as there are many different kinds of slings, as detailed above. Slings come in many different sizes, made with different kinds of material, making it crucial to pick the right size and the material that is most comfortable for the person you are caring for.
- Durability and design in manual lifts: Especially in the case of manual lifts, the handle of the pump should be ergonomically designed so the stress on the caregiver is minimized. Choosing a lift that is durable is also important.
Hoyer Lift Safety Guide
Caregivers who are using hoyer lifts to take care of people must be well-versed in the safety procedures and preparations that are required. The patient should also understand the functioning of the hoyer lift so as to minimize any chance of injury.
If you are operating a patient lift at home, you must receive training from a qualified medical professional before use. Falls from patient lifts can be fatal or cause severe injuries, making safety an utmost priority.
Always remember to use the right kind of hoyer lift for your intended purpose.
Environment Safety Checklist
Hoyer lifts are quite large devices and require adequate space for proper functioning.
- Determine the number of caregivers who are needed. Most hospitals have rules that mandate two caregivers to be present to operate a patient lift. Two caregivers are ideal even in a home environment. Never operate alone if the lift or sling specifies a requirement of more than one person, not including the patient, for operation.
- Position the patient lift properly. The legs of the lift should be near the patient and stable. The lift should also be at the right height.
- Clear the path. There must be enough space for the lift to move freely towards the desired location. All obstructions must be removed from the path, and the maneuvering through doorways should already be tested before placing the patient in the sling.
- Keep children and pets away from the lift in a home environment
Patient Lift Safety Checklist
- If the lift is being used for the first time, test the controls. This can help make the caregiver familiar with the equipment of the patient lift and make sure there is no defect with the device.
- Make sure the battery is charged if the lift is electrically powered.
- Make sure the emergency release function works.
- Make sure the patient’s weight is within the limits that can be supported by the lift as well as the sling.
- Make sure all parts of the lift are in order, and correctly sized. Examine all clips, latches, bars, hooks, and fasteners. Make sure the straps are not twisted.
- Examine the sling and attachment points for any signs of wear such as tears, fraying, or holes. If there are signs of wear, the sling must not be used.
- Check if the lift has locking casters on the wheels which help stabilize the wheels of the lift and prevent movement of the lift during transfer. While it is better for the lift to come with locking casters, it is possible to buy locking casters separately as well.
- Make sure the patient is not in an agitated state or restless.
It can be helpful to have a safety checklist on hand to follow every time the lift is about to be used. It is also essential to read the instructions provided by the manufacturer so that the device can be safely operated. When operating a lift at home, make sure to also have a back-up plan in case the lift stops working properly.
Steps for maintenance are usually provided with the lift manual from the manufacturer. These instructions should be followed. A general guide for maintenance is as follows:
- Disinfect slings after every use
- Disinfect and scrub areas of the sling that are in contact with the patient’s skin
- Air-dry the sling, do not machine dry.
- Do not iron or bleach the sling.
- If the sling is disposable, throw away after use
- Disinfect all surfaces. A disinfectant that is non-corrosive to the material of the lift is important.
- Wipe off traces of the disinfectant
- Clean tracks and motor casings if a ceiling track is being used
All lifting equipment should ideally be examined by a professional on a regular basis. Every six months is suggested.
Paying for a Hoyer Lift
Installing an in-home hoyer lift may not be an easily affordable option for many. If you are having trouble paying for the assistive device, you can consider financial assistance options that may be available to you.
- Medicare can cover costs for patient lifts that a doctor may prescribe for a patient for use at home. Patient lifts are considered DME or Durable Medical Equipment and are covered under Medicare among various other kinds of equipment. It is to be noted that Medicare may not cover electrically powered lifts and only mechanical or manual ones. Detailed information should be sought out on their website. This government-issued booklet from Medicare may also be useful to read.
- Veterans Affairs are a possible option for veterans who need medical assistance from a patient lift, regardless of their ability to pay. The availability of these programs vary from state to state.
- State Grant for Assistive Technology Programs. The federal Assistive Technology aims to make assistive technology more accessible across all the states for many people who require it.
Buying refurbished patient lifts or renting them are also viable options in case the patient does not qualify for the options listed above, or requires a patient lift that is outside the coverage.
Which Hoyer Lift Should You Get?
It is a daunting task to purchase such a large piece of equipment for your home, and it may seem scary, but understanding how they work has already provided you with some valuable insight toward making your purchase. There is a range of options available to you, for purchasing as well as renting or buying refurbished products, that can transform daily life for you and your loved one.
While many lifts come with slings, the following lifts may or may not have them included in the product. While the lift may be of good quality, the sling may or may not be up to the same standard. Hence, slings will be reviewed as a separate product. Please make sure to buy a sling for your patient lift and check whether it is compatible with your patient lifting device.
Best Choice for Quality
Hoyer is the most popular brand for patient lifts, so much so that it has become the name that is used in place of patient lifts. They are one of the most trusted brands for patient lifts.
While it is one of the more expensive options, many people have highly praised this lift for how much it has helped their loved ones in their daily life. In-home caregivers feel that the equipment brings consistency to their lives.
It is one of the first lifts that has the adjustable cow-horn mechanism, which makes it highly adjustable to fit a wide range of patients. This means that different lifts may not be required for different people, and one lift can be customized to fit the needs of many.
You can find a detailed description of this Hoyer lift as well as their other lifts here.
- Able to fit in tight spaces
- Foldable, making it highly portable, and easy to store
- Comes with two batteries
- Two-year warranty
- Some difficulty to move on carpet
- Immovable handles can cause difficulty for people of different heights and arm lengths
- Not enough padding
Best Choice for Price
Many have found the Lumex Stand Assist Unit, a manual lift, worth its price, especially relative to some rental options that offer a similar price. This is one of the most affordable options on the market for stand assist lifts without compromising quality.
Unlike many lifts in its price range, it has rear locking casters that provide an added level of stability to the lift when it is being used. It is not very large with a maximum width of 25 inches. The device does require some amount of arm and leg strength from the person being assisted. If the person has very limited strength, then an electric sit-to-stand lift would be advisable. The person being assisted must also not be under 5’1”.
- Fits in tight spaces
- Well padded to reduce discomfort
- Easy to assemble
- Works well with most transfers (wheelchair, commode)
- Non-adjustable knee pads. Taller people have found the padding to be too low to accommodate their height
- Difficult to maneuver on carpet
Best Choice for Quality
Hoyer is the premier name in patient lifts, making it a reliable choice. This electrically powered lift has a built in battery, and is designed to be compatible with various slings.
Some people have felt that it is much better than the manual version of the same lift, due to how many times the lift gets used during the day. Additionally, the lift is able to be transported in a van without a lot of hassle, a testament to its portability.
- Can perform transfers in a wide range of settings including cars (may require a different type of sling)
- Has an adjuster pedal to control the width of the legs of the lift, making it easy to maneuver around wheelchairs and furniture.
- Can be transported easily due to its foldability
- ‘Swan-leg’ design helps get the lift close to the patient for greater ease
- Difficult to maneuver on carpet when someone is hanging from the sling
- Batteries may need replacement after a certain amount of time which is added maintenance
Best Choice for Price
Invacare is one of the most popular brands for hoyer lifts apart from the Hoyer brand itself. This particular model is easy to disassemble and assemble with a padded six point swivel bar (cradle) that is compatible with various slings, and a push handle that was designed with caregivers in mind. It also minimizes swaying from side to side while rotating the patient even up to 360 degrees. Many users have found it easy to use, with not a lot of effort required.
- Six-point swivel bar
- Can pick up people from a lying position on the floor
- Lightweight and easy assembly/disassembly
- Pump handle can rotate from side to side for the convenience of the caregiver
- Works for a large range of heights and weights
- Does not come with brakes on the casters, which may reduce stability
This lift is a full-body lift, with a commode opening. It comes in a range of sizes.
- Easy to clean
- Designed for wet and dry environments as it is made of polyester
- Compatible with most popular brands and models
- Has a high weight capacity, making it a good choice for bariatric patients
- Has a commode opening
- Not the most comfortable due its plastic-like feel
This sling is a full-body type sling. It comes with a positioning strap and can be used with two-, four-, and six-point cradles. It can be used for bathing.
- Compatible with most brands including ceiling patient lift brands
- Includes positioning strap
- Does not retain body heat due to its polyester material
- Can be used for bathing
- Two-person assistance required
This sling is a U sling, with head support and divided leg slings.
- Compatible with most popular brands
- Has a high weight capacity
- Easy to clean
- Some patients may find polyester an uncomfortable material
Patient lifts are a great device in assisting caregivers with a huge aspect of their caregiving. Lifting patients without lifts has been known to cause back problems and other health issues over long periods of time. Patient lifts help resolve this issue and make the process of transfer easier and more comfortable for both the caregiver and the patient.
Purchasing one for home use can seem overwhelming, especially with all the different types of lifts, slings, and different parts. Reading and researching can be key to overcoming the initial apprehension and getting the equipment you need. While it is a large piece of equipment, with a significant cost in purchasing, and maintaining, it is helpful in the long term and can reduce risks of harm to your loved one and yourself.
- Patient Lifts Safety Guide, FDA, https://www.fda.gov/files/medical%20devices/published/Patient-Lifts-Safety-Guide.pdf
- Patient Lifts, FDA, https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/general-hospital-devices-and-supplies/patient-lifts
- The Best Hoyer Lifts: What is a Hoyer Lift And How Do You Use It?, Assisted Living, https://www.assistedliving.org/best-hoyer-lifts/
- Top 10 Things to Know When Buying a Hoyer Lift, Amica Medical Supply, https://www.amicamedicalsupply.com/blog/top-10-things-to-know-when-buying-a-hoyer-lift/
- Lift, patient, WHO, https://www.who.int/medical_devices/innovation/hospt_equip_16.pdf?ua=1
- The Caregiver’s Guide to Choosing the Right Patient Lift, RehabMart, https://www.rehabmart.com/post/the-caregivers-guide-to-choosing-the-right-patient-lift#FAQ3
- Hoyer Lift Brochure, Joerns Healthcare, https://macdonaldshhc.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Hoyer-Lift-Brochure.pdf
- Patient Lift Sling Guide, Preferred Health Choice, https://www.phc-online.com/Sling-Guide_a/173.htm
- 2-Point Slings, Preferred Health Choice, https://www.phc-online.com/Slings_for_Patient_Lifts_s/18256.htm
- Assistive Technology, Administration for Community Living, https://acl.gov/programs/assistive-technology/assistive-technology