Transfer devices are an integral part of resident care, and they are the best — and safest — way to move residents who require assistance. The beauty of a transfer device is that anyone can use one successfully; you don’t have to be of a particular age, body type or weight. So whether you’re a petite person or have a bad back, a transfer device will improve your resident care and make your job easier.

Many types of transfer devices exist. They range from very basic ones, such as swivel seats, to more state-of-the-art equipment, such as power lifts. Which one you choose will depend on your resident’s mobility, as well as the complexity of the moves you need to make. Let’s start with the simplest devices and work our way up to the more sophisticated ones.

Swivel seats

Swivel seats actually are padded cushions and are useful for residents who have a difficult time pivoting and standing up. The cushions are portable and lightweight — average weight is about 3.25 ponds — and they are durable and stable, with a 300-pound weight capacity. They swivel 360 degrees, so standing up from a chair or getting out of a car is easier. Swivel seats also help prevent back and hip strain.

Transfer boards

Transfer boards come in handy when you need to transfer a resident from a chair or car to a wheelchair. To use one, you put one end of the board under the resident’s hip and the other end on the wheelchair; the resident simply scoots across. Transfer boards come in a variety of sizes (both lengths and widths) and various materials ranging from plastic ones, designed to be easy to clean, with ridges on the surface for added strength, to birch boards with a clear lacquer finish designed to make transfers easier. Some boards have hand holes made to facilitate smoother transfers or cut-out handles for extra maneuverability. Rounded corners and tapered ends are meant to add comfort.

Uplift seats

Uplift seat assists give a boost to help a resident stand up, providing more independence at home and on-the-go. A seat assist is a bit like a lift chair, but it won’t put the resident in a full sanding position as a lift chair will; it just helps the resident stand more easily and eases the burden on the caregiver. With flexible hand controls, seat assists can lift from 70% to 100% of a user’s body weight (up to 300 pounds), depending on the model chosen. They are, of course, more economical than a lift chair and require much less space.

Manual lifts

Residents who are non-weight-bearing or essentially non-mobile may need a full resident lift for getting into and out of a wheelchair. Such lifts are an integral part of the resident care setting, making transfers and daily activities easier, and they help eliminate injury, both to the caregiver and to the resident. Lifts are either manual or battery-operated.

Manual lifts are completely operated by the caregiver. They have hydraulic assists, lessening the weight that the caregiver has to move, and are appropriate when cost is a significant factor or the setting doesn’t allow easy access to a power source. Although manual lifts don’t require a lot of effort, the caregiver does have to crank it to transfer the resident.

Power lifts

Power lifts use a rechargeable battery. Lifting is achieved through a hand control, eliminating any physical exertion by the caregiver but allowing him or her to play a more active role in the lifts; the caregiver can stand by the resident rather than at the front of the lift. Power lifts allow the resident to operate some functions independently, as well. All power models have manual back-up in case of power failure.

Most lifts require a sling. Because a wide variety is available, Slings generally are sold separately, depending on the type of transfers you want to do and what needs the resident has while in the sling.

Transfer devices make daily activities easier, both for you and your residents, and reduce the risk of injuries to everyone. Today, we have covered common categories — swivel seats, transfer boards, uplift seats and lifts. You also may consider assist bars and lift chairs if your residents require more assistance.

Many distributors, including us, can even deliver within 24 hours.

Don’t gamble with your safety or that of your residents. Explore the world of transfer devices and see how much they can improve your level of resident care.

Elizabeth McKinley is director of merchandising at medical supply company SpinLife. She may be reached at or (205) 585-2050.