How to design for a Ceiling Lift

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.
When designing a ceiling lift it is important to begin with evaluating patient needs. Questions to answer:
  • What does the person need to access? Tub? Toilet? Shower? Bed?
  • What are traffic patterns?
  • Where is the wheelchair going to be stored?
  • Where do most transfers take place?
Most transfers take place in the bedroom and bathroom, and the most difficult accessibility issues tend arise in the bathroom. Most ceiling lifts are installed in the bedroom with track beginning over the bed then running to the bathroom to provide access to the shower, tub and toilet.

When designing a ceiling lift to provide access to the bed and bathroom its important to make sure the design allows for as much flexibility as possible for positioning the person with the disability. Since the track is fixed planning for placement of patient is crucial.

  • The track should run the length of the bed, this allows the patient to be positioned anywhere on the bed as needed. Flexibility in patient placement is of the utmost importance. Ease in care giving and decreasing the physical requirements of the care giver and patient comfort are the goals.
  • Plan for convenient wheelchair placement when transferring. Make certain the track runs over an area that is convenient to park the wheelchair for transfers, preferably along the existing path the ceiling lift will be running.
  • Keep the distance the patient must travel on the track to a minimum- this reduces care giver and patient care time as well as saves money on ceiling lift installation.
  • Make as few turns as possible. Keeping the number of turns to a minimum makes using the ceiling lift easier and significantly reduces on installation costs for the ceiling lift. The turn tracks are more expensive then the straight tracks especially if a turn gate is involved.
  • Plan for the charging station. Every ceiling lift has a charging station. The charging station is the place where the lift will most often be parked and should be planned carefully.
    • Preferably the charging station will be on an existing piece of track so no new track has to be set just to charge the lift. Ideally the charging station should be above something not used frequently by able bodied people such as a bathtub or a mat table. The charging station should not be over a toilet or in a shower where people will need to move the lift in order to use an often used fixture such as a toilet or shower.
    • The charging station should not be placed in a bedroom if it can be avoided since often times it will produce a quiet hum which can disturb sleep.
    • The charging station should not be placed in the middle of a room or traffic path. The lift hangs down from the ceiling and will get in the way of people walking so keep the charging station off to the side.
    • Avoid hanging the charging station in front of a window. Aesthetically hanging a charging station in front of a window is just a bad idea, ceiling lifts were not meant to be window treatments.
Most importantly ALWAYS have the ceiling lift installed by a certified ceiling lift installer. Certified installers not only know how to install the proper blocking in the ceiling so the ceiling lift track won't fall out of the ceiling but also know how to ensure the track is level so the ceiling lift can move smoothly from place to place. Ceiling lifts are meant to decrease care giver strain and frustration a ceiling lift installed wrong is dangerous and frustrating.


Functional Homes, Inc. is a certified installer in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana area Functional Homes, Inc.

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