A HelloCare reader recently asked if two people are required to use a hoist when moving an aged care resident, or if it’s okay to use a hoist on your own.

Though many of our readers insisted that two people are always required by their employer, there were others who said they have been successfully hoisting their clients or aged care residents alone without problem for years.

The online conversation has prompted HelloCare to take a look into this issue, another one of the troublesome ‘grey areas’ we seem to come across so often in aged care, where different guidance and different practices across the industry can cause confusion and uncertainty.

We also consider the question of what happens when busy staff are unable to find someone to help them use the hoist, and the need to move the resident is urgent, for example if they need to use the toilet? We have heard of residents being left for hours until staff are available to use the hoist. Both of these situations can create the risk of a loss of dignity for the resident.

What is a hoist?

A hoist is a mechanical lifting device that can be used to move those with poor mobility or who need a high degree of help with transfers, for example from a chair to the toilet, or from bed to a chair.

Hoists are often used in an aged care setting because as part of maintaining a safe workplace, aged care employers have a ‘no lift’ policy to protect staff from developing injuries that may arise from lifting or moving their care recipients. 

There are various types of hoists, including free-standing hoists and ceiling hoists.

Some hoists are designed to be used by two people, but there are hoists that have been specially designed to be used by one person.

Go solo, or wait for help?

According to Work Safe Victoria, two people are usually required to use a hoist.

For example, in their guidelines for transferring people to the toilet or into the bath using a hoist and sling, Work Safe Vic recommends “two or more workers” are required.

The recommendations may vary slighting from state to state, but the nation-wide ‘no lift’ policy means hoists – and two staff members – are generally recommended.

Having two staff members means staff are less likely to strain or injure themselves.

Some hoists are designed to have two people operate them, and have manual parts that require one person to operate the hoist while another person handles the person being moved.

However, some hoists are designed to be operated by one person, and in these situations, given both the employer and the care recipient agree, a single person can operate the hoist and move the person on their own.

Uniting NSW.ACT Executive Manager (Ageing) – Practice Excellence, Lana Richards, told HelloCare that different needs require different solutions, and every case is assessed according to its own circumstances. 

“Each resident/client has individual needs and Uniting engages physiotherapists to assess and determine their appropriate manual handling requirements. 

“This includes identifying the type of equipment and how many people are necessary to support safe transfers. 

“An environmental risk assessment is conducted to ensure the equipment can be used safely and staff are rostered appropriately depending on the assessed need.”

Preserving dignity when staff are rushed off their feet

We know that aged care workers are often rushed off their feet, so what happens when two staff aren’t available and the need to transfer the person is urgent?

Work Safe Vic recommends that aged care employees develop systems that mean two workers are always available.

“Develop and implement a system so the transfer of a person will not proceed until a second worker is available,” the guide recommends.

Similarly, the WorkCover Queensland suggests, “Where the use of a hoist requires two or more people, provide adequate supervision and resources to eliminate the risk of workers being under time pressure and attempting the task on their own.”

But how feasible is this? Sometimes waiting for two staff to become available can leave residents waiting for hours to be moved. 

Hoists in the home

Hoists can be used in the home too, and the same recommendations apply. Of course, employing two staff to use the hoist adds to the cost of delivering care.

What is your experience of using hoists in aged care? Have you used hoists alone, or do you always ensure you have another person with you?

Image: DGLimages, iStock.

This article was edited to include a comment from Uniting NSW.ACT.

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