The Caregiver's Guide to Choosing the Right Patient Lift


A patient lift is used to help caregivers transport patients who have limited mobility to and from a bed, wheelchair, shower or toilet. Patient lifts come in a few basic varieties and are used in hospitals, nursing homes and private residents alike for patients with varying degrees of mobility.
The quality and ease of use found in patient lifts have vastly improved over the years. While there have always been those devices that were better in weight, maneuverability and patient assistance, they’ve typically been on the more expensive side, and didn’t offer much in terms of storage ease. Smaller hospitals didn’t have many patient lifts on hand, and so the limited supply was stretched thin. These were also sometimes problematic as a higher center of gravity, combined with less weight for better maneuverability would sometimes cause the patient lift to lose balance and tip over with the patient dangling from the lift.

Today’s patient lifts have come a long way in terms of safety, cost and convenience for both the patient and the caregiver.

Mobile floor lifts and stationary overhead ceiling track lifts that use electric, hydraulic or manual power and a sling to transport patients, while a sit-to-stand lift is a mobile lift to assist patients with some degree of mobility. Continue reading to gain critical insight into which patient lift may be right for your unique needs, and be sure to browse Rehabmart’s extensive selection of patient lifts.


Frequently Asked Questions about Researching and Selecting a Patient Lift

When is it time to use a patient lift?
Does Medicare cover the cost of patient lifts?
What Kind of Patient Lift is Right for Me?
Should I use a hydraulic (manual) or electric patient lift?
I’m researching sling lifts. What’s the difference between a floor lift, a ceiling lift or free-standing patient lift?
What are the most important factors to consider, or features to look for, when purchasing a patient lift?
I'm a caregiver. How can I find out more about patient lifts and safety?

Other Types of Patient Lifts

Bath Lifts
Pillow Lifts
Emergency Inflatable Lifts

Related Reading


When is it time to use a patient lift?
Patient lifts are designed to serve as the caregiver’s back and brawn, minimizing the physical effort needed to transport patients of varying degrees of mobility. Therefore, anyone whose job it is to move an individual as they go about their daily lives can benefit from the additional assistance a patient lift provides.

Gone are the days when patient lifts were too bulky or expensive to reasonably add to the equipment arsenal of a person living at home, and today’s lifts are compact enough to easily maneuver around furniture and tight spaces in both a home and clinical environment. Over the years, patient lifts have become lighter, safer, less expensive, and much easier for both the patient and the caregiver.

Does Medicare cover the cost of patient lifts?
Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers patient lifts as durable medical equipment (DME) that your doctor prescribes for use in your home. Visit Medicare for more information.

What Kind of Patient Lift is Right for Me?
There are two basic kinds of patient lift devices: sling lifts and sit-to-stand lifts:

Sling lifts are for patients who are disabled, patients who are weak due to illness or injury and bariatric patients. Patient lifts are used in hospitals, nursing homes and in private homes to help safely transfer patients from their bed or chair to another sitting position.

Sit-to-stand lifts are for those patients who do have some mobility but still need help to rise up from a sitting position to transfer to another seat.

Should I use a hydraulic, electric or manual patient lift?
Both sling lifts and sit-to-stand patient lifts can be powered manually using hydraulic power, such as manually-powered air pumps, and are generally less expensive, and a suitable option when there is not a convenient power source available.

Electronic patient lifts are more expensive but are usually easier on caregivers because there is virtually zero manual labor involved in moving patients. Power is provided through rechargeable batteries or a standard electrical outlet.

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I’m researching sling lifts. What’s the difference between a floor lift, a ceiling lift or free-standing patient lift?
Sling lifts come in a variety of types: floor lifts, ceiling lifts and free-standing lifts. Floor sling lifts have a wheeled base and require extra space around beds for patient transfer. Ceiling sling lifts can often be found in hospitals and nursing homes and use less space than floor lifts because the sling is supported by tracks that are permanently affixed to the ceiling, utilizing an electric motor to lower and raise the patient as needed.

Ceiling lifts are usually limited to horizontal movement, depending on the placement of the overhead tracks. Freestanding or modular patient lifts are often less costly than permanent ceiling track lifts and can also be moved with the patients as they go from room to room.

Sit-to-stand lifts are designed to help patients who are able to stand with assistance to get up from a sitting position, whether the movement required is from a bed, wheelchair or shower seat. Instead of slings designed to hold their entire weight, a series of belt or straps are positioned around the patient’s upper body to help them rise safely and slowly to a standing position with a caregiver’s help. Patients must be able to sit up unassisted and able to bear some of their own weight while standing. The sit-to-stand lift can be valuable in the rehabilitation process, as it can encourage patients to become more independent and bear more of their own body weight as they increase their strength.

What are the most important factors to consider, or features to look for, when purchasing a patient lift?
Depending on the patient’s or facility’s individual needs, you’ll need to consider the types of positions the patient needs assistance with. Do they need help moving from sitting to standing position and back again? Do they need to go from lying down to sitting up, or moved from a bed or a chair and back again? All of the above?

Portable lifts offer more flexibility for patient and caregiver alike, allowing the lift to be moved from, say, the bedroom or hospital room to another location and back again as the patient goes about their daily activities.

Weight capacity: Rehabmart offers a variety of lifts with a weight capacity ranging from an upper limit 340 to 700 lbs. Special bariatric models are also available.

Range of Lift height: Lifts should offer a wide range of lift heights to reach low enough so patients who have fallen to the floor can be lifted up, and high enough to lift patients up to a high mattress height (generally up to 66 inches).

Emergency shut-off control and manual override switch: All electronic lifts should have a control to stop the lift motor in case of an emergency and should have a manual override so patients can be safely moved in case of a power loss.

Scale: A built in scale is a convenience for caregivers and healthcare providers to easily weigh patients while transferring them.

Slings: A number of specialized slings are available to suit a patient’s unique needs. Specialized slings include padded slings, full body slings, disposable slings, stretcher slings (for supine transfer), divided leg slings, mesh bathing slings and commode slings.

I'm a caregiver. How can I find out more about patient lifts and safety?
The FDA offers a lot of helpful information and safety tips on how to safely transfer patients from place to place. This document is a great primer to proper caregiver safety tips.

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Other types of lifts

Bath lifts

People in recovery may be unable to raise and lower themselves in and out of a bathtub without assistance, but a shower may not be an option for several reasons including safety and the risk of falling. Inflatable bath lifts help maintain dignity and privacy with their independent design and ease of use. A cushion-style bathtub lift is powered by a low-pressure pump and inflates in seconds, offering a portable option for people who want to bathe without risking a fall. With reasonable upper body stability, the user can get in and out of the tub without much need to lift the legs over the tub edge, or bending at the waist or knees. Many inflatable bath lifts neatly fold away for the next use and offer lumbar support for the user to comfortably adjust their seating position.

Pillow Lifts

Patients who spend a lot of time in bed know how uncomfortable (and boring) it can be to spend most of your time flat on your back. Pillow lifts are air-filled back support devices that can help people with weakened or immobile legs adjust their position in bed at the press of a button, eliminating the strain of having to wriggle into a seating position using only your upper body and core strength. After placing the pillow lift at the top of the mattress, the battery-powered air compressor inflates the pillow and elevates the user into a comfortable sitting position, providing stable support. These portable, inflatable lifts can be tucked away for easy storage or transport.

Emergency Inflatable Lifts

Helping someone with a disability get up from the floor after falling down can be distressing for both the patient and the caregiver. And recovering at home, either on your own or with another person, and trying to help yourself up after a fall can be a long and tedious struggle. The best way to avoid the pain and stress of getting off the floor safely is to keep on hand a simple, portable lift device ready whenever it’s needed. Everyone, especially older adults, takes a spill from time to time. As long as the individual isn’t seriously injured, inflatable lifts for emergency use can be used painlessly and securely.

An inflatable lift designed for helping someone up after a falling accident can be used either independently or with assistance. Whether in the home, in a clinical or institutional setting, these types of lifts can be quickly inflated with a portable compressor to provide a stable lift for up to 700 pounds.

And like other inflatable lifts for the bedroom or bathroom, these emergency lifts can be easily stored away in a closet or the trunk of a car, providing a comfortable and convenient alternative to steel lifts.

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The FDA's Safety Guide to Patient Lifts

Browse Patient Lifts on


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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