7 Best Transfer Aids & How to Use Them

A patient transfer device is simply a product or tool designed to help assist people in moving from place to another. This process can be carried out independently, but is often facilitated by a caregiver. Transfer aids help ensure safety for both parties involved, limiting strain on the caregiver and providing support for the patient. 

There are a variety of transfer aids designed to correspond to the level of the patient's level of mobility. When using a transfer device, it’s essential that you consider the patient’s overall strength and health in order to determine what type of device is most appropriate for their needs.

The most common types of transfers aids will fall within four groups of transfer tasks:

  • Sit-to-Stand Transfer: Transitioning a patient from sitting to standing
  • Seated or Lateral Transfers: Moving a seated patient from one surface to another
  • Pivot Transfers: Lifting the patient up from one surface to pivot and rest on another 
  • Horizontal Transfers: Moving a patient who is lying down from one surface to another

What Type of Patient Transfer Device is Right for Me?

Transfer tools are available in a wide range of shapes, sizes, designs, and capacities, each pertaining to a variety of tasks and best accommodating a certain set of patient needs. In order to choose the right tool for the job, it’s important that caregivers understand the different tools available and how to use them.

1. Transfer Belts

Also known as gait belts, transfer belts are designed to provide a firm and convenient handle for caregivers to support patients. They can be used to simply help mitigate fall risk as patients move independently, but they can also be a great solution for supporting patients through almost any type of transfer.

Most belts are made with durable, soft fabrics or cushioned materials, and often include multiple loops or handholds for extra security. To use them, the caregiver simply grabs the belt itself or one of the handles, using this point of leverage to help lift and support the patient as they sit, stand, walk, and move.

2. Transfer Boards

Usually made with smooth, strong wood or plastic, a transfer board is used to bridge gaps between transfer surfaces. These boards are most often used in lateral seated transfers to help support a patient as they move from one surface to another. This type of device is one of a few that can be used independently by the patient, or can be used by a caregiver

To use these transfer boards, simply place the board between the two surfaces the patient wants to move between. It’s important to place these two surfaces as close and as level as possible, and give each end of the board as much surface to sit on as you can. Then, support the patient as they slide across. 

3. Grab Rails & Handles

Known by a variety of names including bed rails, transfer bars, and support poles, grab rails are designed to provide stable support for a patient as they transfer themselves or assist a caregiver with a transfer. These rails, handles, & poles are a great solution for more stability through any type of transfer, and can even allow patients to move around more independently if they are able.

Coming in a wide variety of designs, these rails and handles can be used almost anywhere. Some are designed to attach under a mattress or fit next to a bed, while others can be used by a toilet, next to a chair or sofa, or in any room in the house to provide more support and prevent falls.

4. Assistive Straps

Assistive straps may be one of the transfer devices you’re unfamiliar with, but they’re also one of the most simple, yet ingenious designs. Often used for individuals who have difficulty sitting up in bed, these straps include one fixed point and a handled end that the patient can grab onto. Once they have hold on the strap, the user can them pull themselves up into a sitting position

The simple technology is also available in straps that help users lift weak or paralyzed limbs up and into bed, or to help users get in and out of car doors or other vehicles safely and easily without requiring assistance from a caregiver.

5. Pivot Aids

Pivot assists come in several models and designs, but they all perform the same basic task, which is helping patients who have difficulty pivoting to more easily go through the movements of a transfer. Some pivot assists are designed to help the feet turn without having to actually step and turn, while others are soft and cushioned, helping the patient pivot on their bottom. Still other innovative models are designed specifically to help transfer users from a wheelchair to standing to another surface.

6. Slide Sheets

One of the most common and economical transfer aids in healthcare is the slide sheet. These sheets are made with low-friction material, designed to facilitate smooth horizontal transfers as well as to allow users to be more easily moved and repositioned in the bed, whether a caregiver moves them or they do it themselves.

These sheets are available in designs that offer either movement in just two directions or in full four-way movement, and even in models designed to be safe and comfortable enough to remain in place on the bed for use whenever they’re needed.

7. Patient Lifts

Patient lifts are most often used for patients who need the most support during transfers. Typically, lifts are reserved for patients who have almost no weight-bearing capabilities, though sit-to-stand lifts are the exception to this rule, helping bring patients who have partial weight bearing from sitting to standing and helping bring them from one seated surface to another or function as a rehabilitative tool to simulate the movement of standing.

Floor lifts and ceiling lifts perform basically the same task, utilizing lift slings to move, transfer, and reposition patients within their beds. These lifts can be used for both lateral and horizontal transfers, helping to support those who are mostly dependent.

To provide a safe and effective patient transfer, not only should the proper device be used, but caregiver training in patient risk assessment, proper lifting techniques, and safe transfer procedures are also exceptionally important.

Almost all patient transfer aids require assistance from one or more caregivers. When a patient is being transferred from one place to another, both the patient and the caregiver are at their most vulnerable in possibly being hurt. Choosing the right equipment and knowing how to use it correctly is vital not only for safe patient care, but also for caregiver safety. 

For more information about patient transfers, transfer devices, and how to maintain the safety of your loved ones, check out our full catalog of articles on Caregiver University, and our full selection of patient transfer devices on Rehabmart.com.


Co-Founder of Rehabmart and an Occupational Therapist since 1993. Mike has spent his professional career working in multiple areas of Occupational Therapy, including pediatrics, geriatrics, hand therapy, ergonomics and inpatient / outpatient rehabilitation. Mike enjoys writing articles that help people solve complex therapeutic problems and make better product choices.

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