March 29, 2018

A Guide to Patient Hoist Slings

A patient hoist sling is a fabric surface that is strategically wrapped around a patient and attached to the metal spreader bar of a hoist or stand aid. The enveloped material acts as a kind of suspended seat or harness and supports the patient’s weight as they are lifted and transferred by the hoist.

Because patient hoists come in a variety of models to suit different purposes, there is a selection of complementary hoist slings on the market. The sling you choose will depend on several different factors, including:

  • Purpose of the intended transfer (eg. toileting, bathing, or transfer from a bed to a chair)
  • The patient’s weight-bearing ability and motor control
  • Type of hoist/stand aid you will be using

Transfers for Toileting

Toileting slings, sometimes known as access slings, wrap around the chest and lower thighs, leaving the posterior and lower back exposed for undressing and personal care. They tend to have superior padding in the legs to support the additional pressure, but do not require specialised material, and so usually manufactured in standard polyester (sometimes known as spacer) material. Polyester is a common material for slings, as it is relatively cheap and extremely durable.

Transfers for Bathing

For showering or fully submerged bathing and swimming, a variety of sling shapes can be used. However, the most common fabric for this purpose is Net, sometimes known as Mesh. This is a fast-drying material, which is helpful when drying and re-dressing patients. Although these materials are designed to avoid holding onto excess moisture, they are not particularly comfortable, and as such should only be used for activities that involve water.

Transfers to seats which will support the patient for a longer period of time

Slings that are intended to be on a patient for a long time, for example while they are in a wheelchair or armchair, are usually made of smooth, silky fabric. This is for two reasons. Firstly, the silky fabric is less prone to creasing, and when it does, the folds are soft and nonintrusive, and so far more comfortable to sit in. Secondly, the silky fabric is useful if you have to manoeuvre the sling in tight spaces, such as a moulded wheelchair seat. This type of movement also generates less friction with the silky material, posing less risk to weak or vulnerable skin and tissue.

These types of slings are usually called in-situ slings.

Transfers for Repositioning

Patient Hoist Slings can also be used in conjunction with a hoist to reposition a patient. For example, if a patient has slipped down an armchair, a hoist will enable you to move them further back into the seat. For this, a general purpose sling will do the trick.

Standing Transfers – with use of a Stand Aid

Chest Slings are used to hold a patient in place. As such, a lot of additional pressure is placed on the torso. Because of this extra pressure, many chest slings feature a fleece lining to provide superior padding.

A Transfer Sling is a variation of a Chest Sling, with additional leg support. This can be handy for patients who can support their own legs, but may need back-up support if bearing their own weight becomes too much.

Seat Slings (sometimes known as Posterior Slings) can be used in conjunction with Chest Slings. They are wrapped around the buttocks and are designed to pull the posterior in for a better standing position. Because of this function, they are sometimes made from Mesh material, which is stronger and can take greater strain.

Although they help maintain good posture, Seat Slings are not designed to take any weight or provide a seat. If you think your patient may need help supporting their lower half on a stand aid, a Transfer Sling may be more appropriate.

Patient Characteristics

A sling’s suitability will also depend on the characteristics of the patient. For example, if the patient has poor head control, a universal sling with additional head support would be appropriate. Or, if a patient struggles to control their arms, or has a tendency to reach out, grab or hit, a high-back universal sling may be helpful, as the extra material cocoons the patient in safely.

If you have any questions about patient hoist slings, Lottie is our resident expert. You can reach her on 01473 741 144, or at [email protected]. Alternatively, fill in the quick contact form below, and we’ll answer your query within one working day.

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