How to do it ... choosing the best bath lifts

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1. The first recommendation is perhaps the simplest: Introduce before use. It's a perfect soft sell.

“Often, fear of the lift is rooted in the unknown,” says Betty Bogue, RN, BSN, president of Prevent Inc. “It may help to demonstrate the lift use to the resident by lifting a co-worker in front of her or him while explaining the process.”

“Test drives” are effective, confirms Mike Schwarzwalder, director of long-term care product strategy for Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare.

“Make sure during orientation the resident sees and, possibly is given, a ride on a lift before it is ever used,” he says. “Never being on a lift, especially on a floor lift, could be a little overwhelming at first. By showing the resident in the orientation process, the family member may be helpful in reassuring and comforting him or her during the first-time use.”

2. Choose appropriate devices. No more, no less.

“Equipment should be suitable for the community's care type and selected based on the average mobility level of the residents,” observes Matt Jante, product manager, healthcare equipment for Direct Supply. “A product that works great for one resident may not work as well for another based on mobility.”

Jante also emphasizes that there are a number of tub styles to choose from depending on the resident's level of fear.

“For example, a side-entry tub may accommodate bubble baths to help preserve dignity during bathing. Another option is a tub that allows full eye contact during transfers to help put residents at ease,” he explains.

3. Above every other consideration is safety – for residents and staff.

“That's why we encourage the use of lifting equipment even when it seems like a small amount of weight,” Jante adds. “If caregivers repeatedly lift without proper equipment, it may increase the risk for injury.”

Bogue believes the culture of safety begins with the care team.

“Building the value of safe, frequent mobilization should start with the nursing care plan and be a part of training of all nursing staff,” she adds.

4. Thorough staff training is paramount. Some caregivers may have a false sense of their own strength and shun using these devices. Others may not trust the devices themselves. Still others may not understand the risks — both to their residents and themselves, not to mention the facility itself — of not using them.

Empathy can be a powerful tool with these scenarios. 

Schwarzwalder asserts the most effective approach is engaging a manufacturer's rep to “walk the staff members through the process.” Moreover, a proven approach is to have staff charged with operating the devices experience the lift themselves.

Consistency is another. Bogue asserts that staff members be held to following the same steps in the same order, each and every time. Not only does that build staff confidence and ease resident fears, but it also assures proper procedures are routinely followed. 

“A structured method for determining a resident's support needs should be a part of the admission, quarterly process,” she says. “A care planned intervention should direct the use of the number of staff, type of lift, cloth sling or accessory type and size to be used for turning, position up in bed, move from a reclined to seated position on the side of bed, transfers and ambulation.”

5. Finally, make doubly sure your facility can accommodate the load requirements and dimensions of a lift device. Not all are created equal.

Mobile lifts may require keen understanding of hallway length and the number of nurse assistants on a shift, says Bogue. Ensure you have appropriate numbers of workers to operate them. 

“Mobile lifts, like floor lifts or sit-to-stand lifts, are great options for many communities,” Jante adds, “but it's important to ensure there is adequate space to store them.”