5 Steps to Choosing the Right Sling for Patient Transfers

March 3, 2022

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Sometimes, finding the right sling can feel overwhelming with all the different styles, sizes, and fabrics to choose from. With a fresh start to the year, we thought it would be ideal to revisit the fundamentals for selecting a sling. We hope this simplifies the sling selection process for you to make everyday life easier.

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There are 5 Basic Steps that we found useful when selecting a sling.

Step One

Clinical Assessment

Step One in the sling selection process is to conduct a thorough clinical assessment of the individual's abilities. Identifying the individual's mobility level, whether they are independent with transfers, require supervision or assistance (minimum, moderate or maximum) is one factor in the selection process which helps narrow down sling style options.  Keep in mind that choosing a sling based solely on 1 factor may not ensure the correct sling has been selected.

To ensure the individual is prescribed the correct sling, consideration must also be given to other factors such as medical conditions, medications, pain, behavior, cognition, communication, weight bearing status, height, weight, body shape, skin integrity, range of motion (ROM), strength, endurance, tone, medical devices, and so forth.

Step Two

Needs Assessment

Step Two of the sling selection process involves identifying the individual's needs - the tasks requiring caregiver assistance - transferring from bed to wheelchair, repositioning in bed, lifting a limb for hygiene care, transferring onto a toilet or commode, and so on. Identifying the various task(s) requiring caregiver assistance during the assessment process will help to further narrow down the sling style options.

Consideration for sling selection must also include factors related to the caregiver's abilities, the environmental conditions, equipment accessibility, and other factors that you may identify during the assessment process.

Ultimately, selecting a sling, as with all safe patient handling and mobility solutions, requires a through clinical assessment, risk assessment and sound clinical judgement. The sling should balance the individual's need for support and comfort without compromising the individual's abilities or the caregiver's safety.

Step Three

Sling Style Selection

To select the sling style, Step Three in the sling selection process, we've created an easy-to use Situations Table which can be found in our Handicare Sling Brochure.  Simply, select the task(s) across the top of the table and then choose one of the corresponding slings in the column.

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Please see our Sling Brochure for full charts and fabric descriptions for sling selection.

As there is no "one-size-fits-all", we've designed a variety of slings to meet the needs of individuals!

In brief, sling styles can be grouped into Five Styles as seen in the image below.

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Please see our Sling Brochure for full charts and fabric descriptions for sling selection.

To help those who may be unfamiliar with the Seated Transfer Slings, we'll quickly go through some of their key differences to assist you with your selection process.

In a nutshell:

  • Seated Transfer Slings are available in a variety of sizes, safe working loads (SWL),and fabrics.
  • The Universal Sling provides the greatest opportunity for activation and the Comfort Care Sling provides greater support.
  • The Universal, Deluxe Hammock, and Hammock Sling with divided leg supports may be placed, used, and removed, whereas the Comfort Care Sling has undivided leg supports and is left in place.
  • The Universal, Deluxe Hammock, and Hammock have either small or medium sized commode openings and the Comfort Care has an optional small commode opening.
  • The Universal, Deluxe Hammock, and Comfort Care Slings are available with or without head support and the Hammock has integrated head support.
  • There are various loops within all the sling straps which allow caregivers to position the individual from a seated to a more reclined position.

Feel free to connect with us or your Handicare Account Manager if you require an in-depth look at our sling styles.

Step Four

Sling Size Selection

Now, when selecting a sling size, Step Four of the sling selection process, it's important that you find a sling that is the right fit for the individual's height, weight, and body shape. Located in the Handicare Sling Brochure is an easy to use, "Sling Size Guide" that will help with our sling sizing.

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Please see our Sling Brochure for full charts and fabric descriptions for sling selection.

Step Five

Fabric Selection

Once the sling style and size have been selected, choose a sling fabric, Step Five in the process. In short, mesh slings are durable and breathable. Quilted mesh slings provide increased comfort under the thighs. Mesh/Poly slings have non-absorbent padding on the leg sections and may be used for bathing or swimming pools. Slings with padded polyester leg bands are designed for increased leg comfort. Poly/Slip slings are constructed with a low friction material on the outer leg sections for easier leg band application and removal. Spacer slings may be suitable for individuals with skin integrity issues with its multi-directional stretch, breathability, and ability to wick away moisture. Disposable slings, designed for single patient use, are strong, breathable, and liquid repellent.

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Please see our Sling Brochure for full charts and fabric descriptions for sling selection.


There you have it - the 5 Steps to Choosing the Right Sling for Patient Transfers.

Now, where do we go from here you ask?

If you have selected a sling then it's time to perform a trial sling fitting - this is where you apply the selected sling to the individual - to check and ensure the sling provides a safe, supportive, and comfortable fit before proceeding with the lift and transfer.

If you have not found a sling that meets the needs and abilities of the individual and the situation, then connect with us at Handicare to assist you!

We hope you found this blog post on sling selection helpful.

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