The UK is ageing. The 2021 Census states the population has grown 20%, with the number of over 65s increasing to 11 million compared to 10 years ago.
This population longevity means more people will require a form of care later in life. Currently, there are 12,471 residential care homes and 5,127 nursing homes.
Care homes and nursing homes need to meet a range of standards when it comes to safety. Residents need to be able to move safely or be moved safely around a building, and with that in mind, care homes will usually feature some kind of lift.
Accessible and easy-to-use lifts help to extend the mobility and independence of residents. For care home residents who require a low threshold of care, user-friendly and accessible lifts are a great way to increase their mobility, allowing them to move around the care home with ease.
For residents who require a high level of nursing care, such as 1:1 or 2:1 carer assistance, using a lift helps with the safe moving and handling of residents. Lifts not only assist residents, but they also help carers to safely fulfil their duties, particularly when it comes to manual handling in care homes.
The type of care or nursing home lift is determined by the needs of the residents and the structure of the building. Typically, two types of lifts are used in care homes. Although passenger lifts are preferred and acknowledged in building regulations, space limitations often make them impractical.
The most common passenger lifts used in nursing homes are 13-person or 8-person models. The benefit of a 13-person stretcher lift is it not only takes multiple wheelchair users but can also accommodate a hospital/care bed. Normally in larger care homes, two passenger lifts are provided in case of breakdown and during servicing, typically a 13-person stretcher lift and the other an 8-person lift (suitable for accommodating a wheelchair).
It’s worth mentioning that if you have a requirement to use a lift as part of your evacuation strategy, then it can only be a special type of passenger lift, namely an evacuation lift.
If you can install a passenger lift in your building, you should. However, platform lifts are a great alternative for smaller or existing buildings. Although they have a slower speed and are better for occasional use, they can still travel up to 12 metres. Platform lifts require less space and building work, making them a cost-effective option. They come in a range of footprints and larger sizes can accommodate a wheelchair and a caregiver.
On top of building size and number of floors, there are several different issues you will need to consider before choosing a lift.
If mobility is very limited for some of your residents, the lift must accommodate requirements when it comes to equipment and carers. Residential care homes and nursing homes with more residents with severe mobility issues may not only require larger lifts but may also need a larger number of lifts to ensure that everyone can move as efficiently as possible.
As well as considering mobility issues, it’s also important to remember that residents can have sensory impairments or cognitive issues that present challenges when using lifts. This is where lift design specification is important, so we’ve outlined the key considerations below and have specific guidance on lifts for dementia.
1) The interior finish
Mirrored interior floors and walls, shiny or swirly surfaces or black or blue floors are not advised as they can startle or disorientate a user. In many lifts, there is an option to maintain a continuous floor finish and colour from the corridor into the lift to reduce trip hazards. Mirrors can confuse residents but a required by standards, so ask about the use of curtains or manifestations (will require approval from building control).
2) The users of the lift
Handrails and controls should be easy to reach and intuitive, and consider the option of a fold-down chair within the lift car for less-ambulant users to enjoy the ride seated.
3) The announcements and communication options
Always check the lift has a verbal system which informs passengers of their location, door movements and arrival at their destination. All lifts require an emergency communication device to enable those trapped to alert someone they are stuck in the lift; however, we’d recommend the addition of an induction loop in fully enclosed lift cars. It’s also good to ensure an emergency button is near the floor of the lift car in the event of an unsupervised fall/incident
4) The aftercare service and level of cover
For any lift installed, it’s the owner’s responsibility to ensure that the lift equipment is regularly serviced and LOLER examined at suitable intervals. As lift legislation is complex, compliance requires assistance from a lift company, so take the time to understand the aftercare offering. Ask about their warranty cover and servicing options. A working lift is vital in this sector, so you need a company that can deliver a good level of cover and fast response times 24/7.
From preventative lift maintenance to more involved lift refurbishment projects, it’s key that any existing lift is performing. Look for a reputable maintenance provider that has good levels of service coverage and experience.
Many of the items mentioned above can be applied as lift upgrades to keep the lift performing as it should. Also, ensure you are speaking with your lift company about the move to digital phone lines by 2025, which will affect your emergency lift phone lines if not upgraded.
Finally, when your existing lift is past its prime, find a lift supplier who is prepared to work with you on a mobility solution whilst a lift is out of service. Stannah has the benefit of stairlifts and lift products, meaning it can ensure a temporary solution throughout the removal and installation process.
Stannah has supplied and installed hundreds of passenger and platform lifts for nursing and residential care homes (both new and existing). The company is also hard at work keeping these lifts in good working order – this helps every care home guarantee a high level of service to all its residents.
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