How to Choose the Proper Sling

August 24, 2018

sling fabric types

So, you need a sling. Whether you have a ceiling lift or floor lift, neither do you much good without a sling. A sling is the peanut butter to your lift’s jelly; the mac to its cheese. But nothing is worse than picking the wrong peanut butter (ahem, smooth) to go with your lift.

But with thousands of options, where does one begin?

We’re here to help.

Sling Fabric

Okay, so I am sure some of you are smooth peanut butter fans, so apologies if I offended anyone. But then you’ll understand how startled you would be to bite into a sandwich that had some crunch. That’s because touch means everything!

Similarly, you want to make sure you understand how fabric plays a role in keeping your patient comfortable and safe.

Padded materials are ideal for patients who have sensitive skin. As the name implies, these types of slings help pad the patient during the transfer, heightening their comfort level. However, keep in mind these are not ideal for situations in which the sling may get wet – whether it’s being used in a bathroom setting or for incontinence issues.

What does work well when water comes into play is a polyester mesh. The mesh material breathes easily and dries quickly.

An institutional go-to is the disposable sling. Great for single use and patient specific solutions, the disposable deters the spread of infection or cross-contamination between patients.

Handicare has engineered the spacer fabric that is the best of all worlds. Spacer is the perfect blend of padding and smooth fabric for comfortable positioning. Soft and breathable, spacer prevents the risk of pressure sores making it the perfect solution for patients who may be sitting for extended periods of time or to reduce the need to repeatedly remove and place a sling each time you are transferring a patient. What’s more is that spacer material has an antimicrobial coating to help control infection.

Sling Shape

Okay, so now that you understand what type of material to look for, what about the sling’s shape? Hammock, universal, divided legs, non-divided legs… they all look so different!

Let’s start with hammock slings, which are sometimes also referred to as full-body slings. These types of slings fully envelop the patient. His or her entire body is supported within the sling, including supporting the head. Arms are also tucked comfortably within the sling, but the patient’s legs will hang down. As a result, you can select to use in a divided leg or cross-over position. This type is best used with patients who have limited body strength.

Universal slings are pretty much just as they sound. They are the most commonly supplied patient lift sling for general transfer purposes. Easy to use and easy to fit, universal slings can be used for just about any transfer type, whether seated, reclined or supine. Universal slings can be used in a divided leg or closed leg position. Some even include a commode aperture for use in toileting situations.

Which brings us to our next type of sling – hygiene. Specifically designed for use with a commode or toilet, these types of slings have an open bottom for easier access. These slings are also designed to allow the caregiver to easily remove/lower the patient’s clothing while they are still being supported by the sling.

Sometimes, patients have enough body strength that a sit-to-stand lift may be more appropriate for hygiene purposes. As such, stand assist slings are used in conjunction with a sit-to-stand floor lift to gently assist the user into a standing position. The belt/sling supports the lower back and connects to the lift to raise a patient from a seated to standing position. These lifts and slings can are also quite useful outside the bathroom.

Taken one step further is the category of walking slings. Walking slings offer upper body support and freedom of movement to assist in ambulation, gait training and fall prevention.

Conversely, sometimes you need a sling that assists a patient who is lying down. Supine and lateral transfers call for positioning slings. These slings include several straps and loops for optimal head support and can often be used in conjunction with bedsheets , so you’re always ready to go.

Then there is this little special category for niche purposes. Specialty slings are the catchall of everything else you may need – from slings that support limbs to innovative tools that help users get around independently, eliminating the need for a caregiver (check out the Independent Lifter).

Size Matters

Now that you have the type of sling you need in which material, what about the fit?

While you wouldn’t be comfortable wearing a t-shirt that was too big or too small, neither would a patient. Besides comfort, choosing a sling that doesn’t fit presents the risk of having the patient fall out, thereby worsening their condition.

Thankfully, each manufacturer will provide a size chart based on the user’s height and weight. While weight is extremely important to ensure that the sling can safely support and lift the patient, height also must be taken into consideration to ensure there the sling is fitting the user correctly. Think about it: someone who is 150 pounds and 5 feet tall has a much different body shape from someone who is 6 feet and the same weight. Thus, it is imperative both measurements be taken into account.

Thankfully, sling manufacturers understand this and offer a wide gamut of sizes to choose from. Pediatric, bariatric, amputees can all receive the same level of care.


If you would like to set up your free sling consultation, call us at 888-637-8155 or email sales.us@handicare.com to set up an appointment today!

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