Sunday, March 28, 2010

Caregiver Aids #1a: a New Way to Transfer

My very first caregiver aids post was about the Surehands lift system we have in the bedroom and bathroom. To me, it is the most important aid we have. (The modified Honda Element, aka the Toaster, runs a very, very close second.) It is saving my back and it is saving Skip from falls.

The lift system as we had it set up used what's called a body support to hold Skip during the lift and transfer. The first post shows the lift motor and body support as it was set up in our bedroom last year. Below are a couple of snaps from the Surehands web site. When Skip got home from the hospital, the body support hurt her shoulders when lifting. We're not sure why. It certainly wasn't due to heavier weight, as she'd dropped 20 or 30 pounds while hospitalized. Nonetheless, we needed a different approach.

We tried using a sling and found that it worked fine. We originally started with a full body sling that holds Skip securely in a hammock style. The sling is made with mesh as shown in the second sling photo. Even though the polyester mesh feels fairly rough to me, Skip never complained about the feeling of it on her skin. After a few lifts, we had a good routine for getting the sling well positioned under Skip on bed before the lift and placing the hooks from the chains at the right level of each strap (there are 3 different spots on the strap for hanging the hook). The only problem with it is that it was impossible to remove the sling once Skip was in the chair. You can see the sling on the chair in the photos from the Skipping Out and About post a few weeks ago.

Skip's physical therapist, who was with us during our first try with the full body sling, suggested we look at a divided leg sling. The design allows for the removal of the sling once in the wheelchair and then, most importantly, it can be put back in place when Skip's in the chair. The user's guide shows putting the sling on in the wheelchair with two assistants, but I was able to handle it by myself without issue. The key is having the two long straps go underneath Skip's legs to hold her place safely while transferring. She's commented that she doesn't feel quite as secure in the divided leg sling while transferring, but you can tell she can't fall out of it. Also, I thought the fabric of this sling would be more comfortable for her, as it's got a soft nap like suede, but she did mention that it was a bit more uncomfortable than the big sling's mesh. It looks like our routine has settled into using the big hammock sling when Skip's staying home and using the divided leg sling when we're going out, so she doesn't have the big sling draped around her wheelchair when we're out and about.

Below is an example of how a person is positioned in a sling (I didn't ask Skip to pose for this post!)

Slings are readily available from a number of different manufacturers. By chance, these are both Invacare products. We're very happy with them. I bought both brand new and in the box on eBay for well below list price.


Dorothy said...

This is my first visit to your site and I'm glad I found have a wonderful ability to share your thoughts and help us understand no matter how much you love someone and want to be there it is sometimes devastating and hard to just get up and begin your days.

My prayers and blessings for your strength and courage. I hope you keep writing as we need to know how hard it can be to always do what's right.


Dorothy from grammology

Gretchen said...

Good Morning--I can tell my comfort level is improving as I am starting to leave messages for folks.

I know you have already purchased a sling, but if you are looking for one that can easily be removed and put in on a chair etc. Look into C slings. If you are interested I will try to find one on the internet and send you a link. They typically need a 4 point bar but go behind the back and then under the legs with a cross.

Good Luck

Cranky said...

Dorothy - greetings! Thanks very much for your comment, blessings and prayers.

Gretchen - greetings to you as well! Thanks for your note. A C sling sounds a lot like the divided leg sling we got. I'll check it on the web.

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steve said...

Good morning, Cranky. When BR was using the hoyer lift, we tried both types of slings, and found that BR was too weak from the waist down to be stable in the sling with the leg straps. Without the ability to stiffen his hips to hold the seated position, he would fold in half and slide through. Even with the help of an OT, we couldn't make it work.

With the hammock-style sling, we were able to "take if off" in the chair by having BR lean forward to drop the upper portion down behind his hips, then have him lift up with his arms to slide the sling out from the side.

Putting it back on was a similar process. He would lean forward and I placed the upper portion across his shoulders, with the bottom portion pooling behind his hips. He would then lift with his arms, and I would slide the bottom portion under him down to mid-thigh.

Glad you had a nice trip out to the cape. We just got back from seeing BR's family in Shreveport. A little over six hours in the car each way. He held up quite well, but is pretty exhausted now.

Cranky said...

Steve - a little creative problem solving goes a long way in caregiving. I'll bet you folks got a lot of good eating and family love and support in while in Shreveport.