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 track). The device incorporates a sling for the person being transferred. A fully motorized and installed ceiling lift transfers in an up and down motion, as well as from room to room. A portable ceiling lift transfers a patient in an up and down motion using a motor; moving the person side to side is done manually.
Hospitals have used ceiling lifts for many years, but they are now also available for home installation. Ceiling lifts provide an easier way for people to stay in the home rather than in a hospital when possible.
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 a person needs and mobility to the lift’s capability and intended use. For example, a person with some ability to control and support himself can use a different type of lift than a person who requires total support.
A patient lift can also be self-standing. This type of lift may be manual (using hydraulic assistance) or fully motorized. The lift can be wheeled from room to room and moved into position and moved out the way when not needed.
Portable, manual patient lifts are the most economical costing less than about $500. Motorized, portable ceiling lifts start around $2,000 and installed overhead track systems cost upwards of $5,000.
Ceiling Lift Features
Home ceiling lifts feature a powered lifter, a sling for the patient to travel in, and a track which is secured to the ceiling (permanent) or to free-standing posts (portable). The sling hooks onto the lift with secure clips.
Portable home ceiling lifts are generally battery powered with a built-in charging system. Most units are 24-volt and batteries are rechargeable lead acid or NiMH (nickel-metal hydride). Batteries will operate the lift for a certain number of lift cycles before requiring charging. Each model differs in the cycles offered, but expect about 20 lifts up and down of 2′ in distance.
The weight of the unit is an important consideration if you plan to move the lift from room to room, or take it from place to place. The lightest units weigh only about 7 lb. (Prism P300) but heavier units may be close to 30 lb.
A key consideration of the lift is the lifting capacity. Models are rated from about 200 lb. up to 450 lb. It is important to choose the correct capacity for the patient.
There are different types of slings available for the lift depending on the person’s body type and condition or mobility function. A healthcare professional can help assess the user’s condition and body type to recommend the appropriate sling type. Slings may be designed or may be adjustable to allow both a reclined or upright position for the body. Slings are usually washable.
Controlling the lift differs slightly by model, but onboard controls may be used by the patient but more often by the caregiver.
Safety features to look for include an overspeed governor to ensure that the lift does not lower too quickly. An emergency lowering system allows you to lower the patient if the unit stops working for any reason.