Saturday, April 11, 2009

Caregiver Aids #1: Surehands Lift

Back before the Surehands lift came into our lives, I did a lot of manual transferring of Skip. She did use a transfer board when I wasn't home, but I'm an impatient sort and, when I was around, I'd often do the transfer myself rather than cool my heels while she transferred.

The transfer process involved ...
  1. positioning Skip's wheelchair next to the bed or recliner or toilet
  2. bending over and grabbing her upper arms about midway between shoulder and elbow
  3. pick her up into a standing position
  4. quickly pivot and plop her onto the wheelchair/bed/recliner/toiler
As I had recently turned 50, I knew this pick and plop method wasn't going to get us much farther. My back hurt most of the time. And, Skip's self-transfers were sometimes scary to watch and occasionally resulted in falls.

But, I really had no clue what was out there in the way of transferring aids. I'd always heard about Hoyer lifts and looked at them on various disabled products websites and eBay, but thought they looked like a real hassle. The main concern I had was, how will we get Skip into the hammock to do the transfer? That seemed like it would be as much work as an unassisted transfer. One day, someone in my MS Caregivers group mentioned her daughter used a Surehands lift. I checked it out online when I got home. The lift device made a lot more sense to me than the hammocky-Hoyer and it showed the option of installing the lift in the ceiling. We have a small bathroom, so the rollable Hoyer would never have worked there.

The rest, as they say is history. Found a local Surehands installer. Owner came out with a rollable version to try it out on Skip. It worked fine for her. He checked out the bathroom and bedroom and we discussed various options for installation. We settled on two separate rails and motors (pic shows the bedroom version), one for each room. The body support, as shown in the picture, has two grey supports that go under each armpit. Then a curved hanger goes under each thigh to complete the support for the transfer. The hangers come in different styles, depending upon the situation of the individual it's set up to transfer.

Mr. Surehands priced out the work using new and used equipment. It wasn't cheap, but it was very worth it! We went with the used equipment, where possible. The installation took about a day. They came and trained us on the use of it and we've been happily taking advantage of it ever since.

In the infrequent occasions I have cause to transfer Skip today, I'm struck by how difficult it is. Her leg strength is essentially 100% gone, so is pretty much a dead weight during the transfer. I can't imagine how we'd be handling the everyday transfers without the Surehands. I feel she and I are infinitely safer today with this tool than we were before.


steve said...

What a great device! Seems that any high-quality assistive device also comes with a high price tag. I've been pricing combo commode/shower chairs that have head support. The one recommended by a local medical supply store costs over $3000! They didn't hold out much hope for insurance assistance either. Something about "nothing is covered that goes in the bathroom."

These days, I'm picking BR up to transfer him -- much like a groom might carry a bride across the threshold. It's a bit risky for my back, so I'm careful to use proper lifting techniques. Besides, I really enjoy the physical contact.

Cranky said...

You must be strong! I am big and tall, but I wouldn't be able to carry her the way you carry BR. With the Surehands, I do give her a hug at bedtime mid-lift ... the lift gets her high enough for a hug from behind. It is NICE to get that contact.

I've seen some of the shower chairs in and wonder at their cost. Crazy expensive. Have you thought about buying a separate headrest and attaching it to a modest-priced shower chair/commode? It's most likely not as good as the chair with the headrest built in, but you could probably put it together for under $500 (thinking about the $200 rolling commode/shower chair Skip has).

Micah Klein said...


Let me be the first to comment and say Thank You for the positive feedback and that I am glad you are loving your SureHands Lift. If you should have any questions or concerns feel free to call your dealer or SureHands directly at 1-800-724-5305.

Micah Klein

Diane J Standiford said...

I will be needed one of these soon. I do most of my own transfers now, but use a caregiver at least once a day. I can bare my weight/stand 30 sec to minute, try to extend it each day--was 0, 3 years ago. I look at these devices and my partner (who is very weak) and I can't figure out: w/transfer to toilet, how/when is my needed area exposed? And w/the one you are using, HOW do I get the thigh straps under my thighs? I live in a lift-chair. If I might ask, how long was it for Skip from where I currently am to being dead weight? See, another big worry. And since we will always only rent...can the devices be removed/reinstalled? GAWD I hate MS.

Cranky said...

Diane - have you tried a transfer board? Skip used one for a number of years when she became a ft wheelchair user. It worked for xfers from wheelchair to bed, toilet and recliner. Fore surehands, I recommend you go to their web site and send them a note. They'll put you in contact with a local distributor who can come over and check out your situation and make recommendations. Warning: the cost for our setup was about $12k, I think. I have seen other lift systems installed in hospital rooms and in an examining room at Skip's wound clinic, so there's competition out there. Not sure who else uses the body support. Since Skip now uses a sling, we may have a spare body support we could pass along to you.