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An elderly personal alarm with automatic fall detection can detect a fall and call for help without you needing to push the button. This is vital is you are unconscious or immobile following a sudden illness or a fall. The call will automatically go through to either your nominated contacts or a SureSafe operator, depending on which service you have chosen. You will be able to get the help you need fast, even if you are unable to press the button.

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All About Portable Hoists and Bed Transfer Devices for the Elderly

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms

When an older or disabled person has difficulties with mobility, getting in and out of bed can be an especially tricky task. It’s not always easy to transfer from a wheelchair to a bed or to sit up in bed without assistance.

What if a carer is there to help? Well, that doesn’t always mean the process is problem-free. Carers can struggle to lift a person’s weight or may be at risk of dropping the person by accident.

That’s where portable hoists for the elderly or disabled and bed transfer devices come in. They help to ensure the process of getting in and out of bed is smoother and safer for everyone involved. After all, falls are a major risk for the elderly, and they’re an even greater risk for seniors who already have long-term health conditions.

So, what types of bed transfer devices and portable hoists are available, and how can they help older people with limited mobility? Read on to explore all the details of these important devices that offer assistance when it comes to getting in and out of bed.

Who might benefit from a bed hoist or bed transfer device?

When transferring into bed is difficult, elderly people can sometimes benefit from lifting aids such as lifting poles or bed rail stands. However, these types of aids may not be enough for seniors who have greater trouble with walking or moving about.

Bed hoists and bed transfer devices can be great for seniors who struggle to get in and out of bed because of conditions including:

  • Limb stiffness or weakness
  • Injury
  • Surgery recovery
  • Paralysis, including the effects of a stroke
  • Tremors and poor balance, such as in Parkinson’s disease
  • Advanced dementia

Bed hoists and transfer devices can also be important protection for carers who can’t safely lift an older person on their own, such as family members caring for an elderly loved one at home. Of course, carers need to be trained in lifting techniques (known as moving and handling) and in using hoists and similar devices. However, with the correct training, these tools can be highly effective.

If you think you might need a hoist or transfer device at home, it’s best to ask your council for a care needs assessment. That’s the way for carers to access guidance about what type of device is needed and how to set it up – and possibly even funding to pay for the device.

Types of bed transfer devices and hoists

Different types of bed transfer devices may be appropriate for different seniors, depending on their specific mobility difficulties, bedroom space and more. Below, we’ll run through some of the main types of these devices.

Mobile hoists

A mobile bed hoist is a metal device with a wheeled base that slips under the bed and an arm that hangs over the bed. It bears the entire weight of an older person, allowing them to be safely lifted and moved to and from the bed. Yet it doesn’t take up much space in a bedroom, making it appropriate for older people who are cared for in a family home.

When you buy a hoist, you’ll often need to buy a sling to use with it. The sling is a fabric item that attaches to the hoist’s arm to gently carry an elderly person. Just as not all hoists are alike, not all slings are alike, so you’ll want to make sure you are purchasing the right hoist and sling for you. For example, you’ll need a hoist that can bear the necessary amount of weight.

Since a hoist with wheels can be moved away from the bed, it can even potentially help lift an older person from the floor after a fall, as long as they’re not injured. That’s much safer than trying to lift an elderly person from the floor just using physical strength, which is generally not recommended.

It is also possible to install a permanent hoist into a room, perhaps even into the ceiling so that no device at the side of the bed is required. However, this type of permanent installation may not be suitable, affordable or practical for all homes. Similarly, different type of hoists are available for transfers within the bathroom, although some moveable bed hoists are useable for that purpose too.

Ultimately, the benefit of a hoist is that it can completely carry the weight of an older person. That’s often ideal for an elderly person who cannot stand or bear their own weight at all. A hoist might also be necessary for an older person who doesn’t have the physical coordination or strength to use an alternative option for transferring, such as …

Transfer aids

Patient transfer aids such as the Sara Stedy transfer aid or Return transfer aid can enable a single person to help another person sit or stand without exerting physical effort or risking an injury to themselves or the person requiring help. These can be very useful in various different settings or situations but are specially designed to help a person move from a sit to a standing position or likewise stand to sit.

Transfer boards

At first glance, transfer boards may not look like sophisticated devices. They are often simply flat boards of wood or plastic that provide a bridge between a bed and chair or wheelchair. They allow an older person to be slid from the bed to the wheelchair rather than lifted. The PATSLIDE® is the most commonly used transfer board and will be familiar to many who may have experienced an ambulance ride to the hospital, an A & E visit or a casual observer of any hospital drama.

This type of board might be useful for an older person who doesn’t need the complete support of a hoist. For seniors who are generally strong and agile but unable to stand, a transfer board might also allow them to handle the transfer from bed to chair independently.

As with hoists, not all transfer boards are the same. Some are curved, some are straight, and some have additional features to help with stability or grip. So, again, you’ll have to carefully consider what kind of sliding motion you’d like and what type of board would best suit that.

There is a potential problem here, though. If you’re managing a transfer through sliding, there’s the risk that friction will make it impossible to complete the slide. Likewise, an older person’s fragile skin could accidentally be damaged while trying to transfer by sliding. That’s why a transfer board can also be used with …

Slide sheets or glide sheets

Slide sheets or glide sheets can be crucial in many aspects of caring for a person who can’t leave their bed. Put simply, they are slippery pieces of fabric or sheets that allow a person to be easily rolled or slid to a different position, such as for bathing or to prevent bed sores.

A slide sheet can also be used to help an older person slide smoothly from the bed to a wheelchair or seat. If secured properly, a slide sheet can even be combined with a transfer board to allow an easy slide along the board.

These sheets come in different forms. Some are large sheets or even simply satiny fitted sheets. These are left on the bed to allow regular repositioning of an older person. However, other glide sheets are smaller and not meant to be on the bed at all times.


A transfer turntable typically is a flat, circular device. It allows an older person to swivel in place smoothly, such as when they are rotating their legs from the bed surface sideways to the side of the bed.

Like the slide sheet, this device is all about reducing friction and making movements as easy as possible.

How SureSafe provides protection for seniors with mobility difficulties

It’s great that slings and other bed transfer devices can facilitate safe movement into and out of bed for both older people and their carers. However, there are other situations where falls can still be a risk.

If a carer isn’t nearby, an older person’s attempt to stand up from a chair can result in a fall. That’s especially the case for seniors with dementia who may be unaware of their own mobility difficulties. What’s more, even an older person who is seated may suffer a health crisis that would cause them to fall from their chair to the ground.

In this situation, a fall detection alarm provides extra security. This type of alarm can sense when its wearer has fallen and calls for help by itself, without the wearer needing to do anything. That’s helpful if an older person is unconscious or unable to press an alarm button.

At the same time, falls aren’t the only risk to seniors. If an older person with fragile health has any kind of health emergency, it’s essential that they can call for help right away, even if their carer is in a different room.

One touch personal alarms are the answer to this problem. With just the touch of a button, an older person can call for help even if a phone is not at hand. Even better is an elderly personal alarm that combines fall detection and one-touch functionality to provide more complete protection in many circumstances.

If you’re wondering whether a personal alarm might be right for you or an elderly loved one, we’d be glad to chat with you! Just get in touch with us by phone at 0808 189 1671. You can also use our live chat or request a call back.

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