Using the Rifton TRAM for Molding Custom Seat Cushions

Barbara Crume, PT, ATP, C/NDT | December 2013

A caregiver using the Rifton TRAM transfer and lift device to position a patient An Unexpected Benefit


I work in a seating clinic in Asheville, North Carolina, and for years I’ve struggled with an intractable hurdle. For my patients with spinal cord injury or other neurological conditions I frequently use the custom seat cushions made by Ride Designs which involves the use of a seat simulator made of very soft crushable foam, similar to what a florist uses for flower arrangements. Making the custom mold involves lowering your patient directly down, pelvis first, onto the simulator to form an imprint. You have to be very careful not to touch the foam before the actual imprint is made otherwise the mold will be flawed. With a number of these patients, this transfer can be extraordinarily difficult. I’ve often needed three people, and even then it’s been strenuous and awkward, often requiring several attempts.

Imagine my thrill when I discovered the Rifton TRAM. With this fabulous new lift and transfer device I can raise my patient and with one other person to help guide the patient down we can get a perfect imprint every time. And then I can simply raise the patient straight up out of the mold without any imperfections. I’m told the TRAM’s designers never anticipated this use, but I can’t imagine using any other approach now.

One client I remember particularly well was an older gentleman with post-polio syndrome who had not tolerated any previous mechanical lift he had tried. He was very heavy and uncomfortable with anyone lifting him manually. He could transfer himself, but did this by moving directly forward out of his wheelchair onto his bed and “walking his buttocks” into place. Obviously this wouldn’t work for a Ride impression mold. We had already tried several approaches with no success when I “discovered” the TRAM. We tried it, and it worked beautifully. He was thrilled. And as an added benefit, he realized that the TRAM was perfect for home use where transfers were becoming increasingly difficult. With the TRAM, his wife could now assist him alone, giving the two of them a measure of independence at home.

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