When looking at the topic of safe transfers in the home, what comes to mind? You may think of moving someone with mobility issues from a bed to a chair (and back), or maybe onto the toilet or into a bath or shower. There are various transfers that happen day and night in the home, including simply boosting up in bed or a chair and getting in and out of cars. Those who have assisted a family member with these transfers understand how demanding it can be for both the caregiver and the person being helped. In many cases, transfers are done via sheer force by pulling or tugging on someone, which is often unsafe and even painful for both the individual and the person assisting them. It can create even greater risk for those with impaired skin integrity.
Without appropriate equipment—and often, home modifications—transfers can be a backbreaking task for a caregiver. In addition, they expose both people to the risk of shoulder injuries and falls. And since transfers happen many times throughout the day, by the time the evening arrives, both parties are exhausted and injuries are more apt to occur. Even if no accident or injury happens, the constant physical demands often lead to caregiver burnout, forcing the loved one to be admitted to a facility.
Home medical equipment (HME) providers can mitigate these risks. We recommend focusing on the primary areas in the home where transfer-related falls occur and factoring in the conditions, prognosis and needs of the client. Partnering with occupational therapists or home health agencies can provide another level of service, since they have the training and experience to make appropriate, comprehensive home assessments (which may include tangential items like slip-proof floors, throw rug removal, etc.). Home health agencies can also send clients who need these products to you.
Just getting into the home can create transferring challenges, since there are often stairs to overcome. Installing a vertical platform lift (VPL) is an excellent solution to help those in a wheelchair get into a home. These mini-elevators can be placed in garages or outside. A few models can convert from stairs to the lift and therefore do not require a separate area for installation. Wheelchair ramps are also an option if the space permits.
Working with VPL and ramp manufacturers to become a certified installer can increase your home access offerings and shows customers you have the expertise to do the job.
Even before reaching the front door, a person might need help getting in and out of a vehicle. Certain floor lifts can be used, but these are expensive and often heavy. Pivot pads that can be put on the seat and help the person spin and swing their legs in and out of the car are an easy addition to your product offerings.
3. Living Room
Transferring from a recliner chair or sofa where the loved one sits is also a common daily task that usually involves significant physical effort. As most people retain upper body strength longer than lower body strength, one simple option is to place walking poles that run from the floor to the ceiling to provide the individual a safer way to get up from their favorite spot by reaching up, grabbing on and using their own upper body strength. These do not require any special drilling. Another option is a powered lift chair, which can take the place of a favorite recliner.
Where the individual requires greater assistance, but can still support at least 30% of their weight, a powered sit-to-stand lift is an option. This type of lift also helps with sitting. Your clients may need training on how to safely use the lift, a service that will help turn them into repeat customers.
When a powered sit-to-stand is too big or expensive, some nonpowered lifts can be used if the individual has sufficient body strength. Like a standing pole, the individual can grab onto the lift and pull themselves up to a stand standing position from a bed, chair or toilet, and also hold onto it while lowering themselves.
Before anyone can even get out of bed, they first must get to the edge. Most often caregivers pull and tug on the individual’s arms, which can cause injury. Recommend a slide sheet to reduce friction between the patient and the mattress.
Another common issue with anyone in bed or a chair is sliding down. A simple solution is one-way slides. These have one-directional friction that helps prevent the person from sliding down in their chair. For a bed, there are satin sheet systems that do something similar.
A walking pole, powered sit-to-stand or nonpowered lift can work in the bedroom as well. In cases where an individual has very limited mobility, a total mobile lift can move them from one surface to another. This provides a comfortable and safe transfer for both the individual and caregiver. Unfortunately, with heavier individuals or in houses with carpeting, the floor lift may be challenging to roll. Another option would be a ceiling lift that can be mounted in the ceiling and makes moving the individual extremely simple.
Another option is a custom homecare bed that raises and lowers to help lift the person up to exit the bed. Walking rails can be used once someone is out of the bed for safe ambulation from bed to bathroom or elsewhere in the house.
The bathroom is usually the most critical area as most falls occur there. Most of those falls occur getting on and off the toilet. Grab bars and poles can be used, as well as the previously mentioned lifts. Installing a taller toilet is a great option, except where the person is too short for their feet to touch the ground. For those with much less mobility, a powered toilet seat lift works well but usually others will no longer use that toilet.
For showering and bathing, the ideal scenario is to renovate older bathrooms to provide for a walk-in, barrier-free shower. This allows people to more easily walk in or be wheeled in using a shower chair. Once inside the shower, a wall mounted shower seat with grab bars is very helpful with a shower wand that reaches that spot. Virtually every wall in the bathroom, including the shower, should have grab bars or railings for additional support. For tubs, there are various options to improve safety, from a replacement safety tub to cutouts to overtub lifts.
Most individuals at home will eventually lose mobility and therefore face challenges getting from bed to chair or toilet and back. Offer a range of products in your store that are appropriate for each phase of this mobility curve. These products will increase the ability to manage these activities for the individual and their caregivers with much less risk of injury to both.