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Ceiling Lifts

What is a ceiling lift?

A ceiling lift is a motorized device that lifts and transfers a person from point to point along an overhead track. The track can be ceiling mounted, or may be portable (self-standing or free-standing track). The device incorporates a sling for the person being transferred. Hospitals have used ceiling lifts for many years, but they are now also available for home installation. Ceiling lifts make it possible for people to stay in the comfort of their own homes rather than in a hospital.

Types of Ceiling Lifts

Permanent – cannot remove the lifting unit from the ceiling track. It’s usually found in homes where the ceiling track runs throughout the home. A 4-function ceiling lift moves up and down as well as right and left so the caregiver does not have to manually move the patient through the home or the patient can operate the lift to move themself.

Portable – lift may be removed from one ceiling track and used on another or on a self-standing track. It transfers a patient in an up and down motion using a motor but the caregiver must manually move the person along the track.

A ceiling lift greatly reduces the strain on a caregiver as the patient can be moved easily, safely and with dignity and comfort from bed to bath or other locations. A patient assessment should be made before buying a ceiling lift. It is important to match the individual’s needs and mobility to the lift’s capability and intended use. For example, a person with some ability to control and support themselves may want to use a lift with hand held controls that they can operate while hand held controls for a person who requires total support may not be useful.

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What is a patient lift?

A patient lift is floor based with wheels attached to the base. This type of lift may be manual (using hydraulic assistance) or fully motorized. The stand consists of a base with caster wheels, a mast/vertical pole with a large handle for steering and the boom arm that moves up and down to lift and lower the patient. The lift can be wheeled from room to room and moved into position and out the way when not in use.

Portable, manual patient lifts are the most economical costing about $1,000. Motorized, portable ceiling lifts start around $3,000 and installed overhead track systems cost upwards of $5,000.

Ceiling Lift Features

Battery Powered
Portable home ceiling lifts are generally battery powered with built-in charging systems. Most units are 24-volt and batteries are rechargeable lead acid or NiMH (nickel-metal hydride). The newest ceiling lifts on the market have lithium-ion batteries which offer the longest battery life, most lifts per charge and the fastest charging time.

Batteries will operate the lift for a certain number of lift cycles before requiring charging. Each model differs, but expect about 20 lift cycles (up and down) for older technology lifts and about 80 lifts per charge with newer technology lifts

Weight of Unit
The weight of the unit is an important consideration if you plan to move the lift from one room to another room/place or if the caregiver is elderly. The lightest unit available on the market weighs only about 11 lb (Savaria Monarch) but heavier units may be closer to 30 lb.

Lift Capacity
The lifting capacity of a ceiling or patient lift is how much weight the lift can safety raise and lower. Experienced ceiling/patient lift salespeople can help determine the right lift for the patient.

Lift Controls
Controls for the lift are usually found on the unit itself and used by the caregiver.  Hand-held controllers are also available on some models allowing the patient to operate the unit themselves and for greater versatility. In most cases, a simple push of a button will raise and lower the lift.

Safety Features
Safety features to look for include:

  • Overspeed governor to ensure that the lift does not lower too quickly
  • Emergency lowering system to allow you to lower the patient if the unit loses power for any reason
  • Sling attachment mechanism that prevents inadvertent detachment of sling loops