Single handed care is a growing global trend when it comes to moving and handling individuals with mobility issues.

Innovative overhead lifting solutions, improved gantry options, clever in-bed management systems, slings and moving sheets are just some of the equipment now available that has made Single Handed Care possible.

So why isn’t New Zealand embracing it? Our status quo is for two people to help with turning and positioning, however, there is no legislative requirement that dictates this. A lack of training and understanding about Single Handed Care is definitely a barrier, as is the initial cost involved in installing the infrastructure required.

Our aging population and growing pressure on our national health budget means now is the time to look at introducing Single Handed Care as there are significant cost savings and benefits to be had.

The payback time for installing overhead lifting solutions in New Zealand aged care facilities is estimated to be about three years (the time taken from the reduced injury cost savings to exceed the initial setup and staff training costs). Significant investment may be required upfront, however, the return on that investment speaks for itself.

Denmark introduced mandatory 2-1 caregiving practices in 2017 after a large study showed the clear benefits of overhead lifting solutions and accessories. Most lifting and hygiene routines could be handled by one caregiver instead of two, freeing up 859 carers (FTE) and saving £37-98m in annual salaries.

Deborah Harrison, a UK-based global manual handling expert, believes advances in technology and equipment like overhead lifting devices, positioning solutions and innovative sling designs definitely makes it possible for New Zealand to move to Single Handed Care.

The founder of A1 Risk Solutions says moving and handling of people can potentially be a serious hazard. Investing in technology and Single Handed Care frees up valuable time for carers to focus on other aspects of caring for clients which are often rushed or neglected altogether.

Not only is Single Handed Care more efficient, it creates a more positive physical and psychological working environment for carers and can improve the quality of life and dignity for clients, Deborah says. It’s much easier to develop a good relationship with one carer instead of the impersonal nature of having multiple people come in and out of a room to lift or move you.

“Education and training are required by carers who make the transition, along with an effective strategy. But the rewards are worth it.”

A reluctance to spend money on new equipment, and the notion that two carers are required, are the most common barriers to change. “There are a total of 237 potential barriers but I have solved them all. There truly is a logical answer to everything,” Deborah says.

A wide variety of moving and positioning products now available on the New Zealand market to make Single Handed Care possible in the home.

Ergolet offers a mobile two post gantry system which combines with its innovative Luna overhead lift (275kg lifting capacity). This gantry’s height and width can easily be adjusted within seconds, making it suitable for most care rooms and transfer situations.

TurnAid is another great solution available in New Zealand via Cubro. This unique turning and moving system combines an electrically-driven turning sheet and two bed rails which can safely turn patients from their backs onto their sides, or from one side to the other. This system can be installed on most types of care beds and is suitable for people weighing up to 200kg.

With the right type of equipment in place, people can be safely transferred by one person instead of two. Studies suggest the success rate of converting clients from double to Single Handed Care is 42%-50%.

While this makes life much easier, reduces injuries to carers, and saves a substantial amount of time and resources, Single Handed Care ultimately benefits the client as well. It empowers them, offers increased independence, greater flexibility and dignity, reduces the risk of injury and also maximises their personal budget by not requiring two caregivers to always be available.

Advances in technology mean it’s no longer a risky move to have just one carer – it’s a sensible one.