Getting a stair lift provides freedom to access all the levels of your home! It is also an investment into your home, so you want to be sure to be smart about your purchase. First, let’s dispel a few myths.
Myth #1: The stair lift will require a lot of installation time and construction.
Actually, a straight stair lift comes on a rail attached to the stair treads, not to the wall. So, it does not require construction and may not even require removal of your handrail that’s already on the wall! The stair lift does require electricity, but as long as you have an outlet within a few feet of the top or bottom of the stairs, you won’t need to make any additional changes.
Myth #2: The idle stair lift will take up all the space on the stairs for those walking.
Stair lifts are made to have a slim profile when not in use. The seat flips up out of the way and sits right over its rail so it takes up just a few inches. Depending on your setup and choice in lift, the stair lift can rest out of the stairway all together—in the space at the top or bottom of the stairs.
Myth #3: I can’t afford a stair lift.
While a stair lift is not covered by insurance and does have a cost, there are some creative ways to deal with it. If you have long-term-care insurance, check with your provider to see if home modifications are included in your policy. If so you may be able to get reimbursed for the cost of adding a stair lift. Also, many stair lift companies have access to pre-owned stair lifts. If what they have fits your needs, you may be able to buy it at a discounted price!
Once you’ve dispelled the myths, you’re left with what you should be looking for in a stair lift. Here are a few things to consider!
Find a local, reputable dealer that sells multiple brands of stair lifts
They will come assess the home and help match you with the right stair lift for all your needs, as there are many features available that could make or break one’s ability to use the chair effectively. That’s why it’s important to choose a dealer that represents multiple brands so you have access to the full range of options that best meet your needs (and not just what they have to sell). Having a company that’s local will also give you the best options for getting service on the chair as needed in the future.
If you have a landing or turn in your stairs, decide between installing custom or two stair lifts
The standard stair lift is a straight rail with a seat attached that will move the user from one level to the other. But if you have a split-level home or a set of stairs with a landing that turns the flight of stairs, a straight lift won’t work. You’ll need to decide if you should get a custom lift that will be built to your home specifications so the user can be carried to the next level without interruption, or if you want to install two straight lifts: one for the first set of stairs and another to go from the landing up to the next level. Buying two lifts can save you a few thousand dollars compared to a custom lift, but the user also has to be capable of getting out of one stair lift chair and over into another stair lift chair safely.
"Buying two lifts can save you a few thousand dollars compared to a custom lift, but the user also has to be capable of getting out of one stair lift chair and over into another stair lift chair safely."
If the stair lift will end in a high-traffic hallway, decide if you need the rail to flip out of the way
The stair lift is always set up to end where the user’s feet can be firmly placed on the level they are headed to and not the last step. So, that often means the rail will also need to proceed off the stairs and to that level. If that places the rail into a hallway, it could be a trip hazard as people pass by. Choose a stair lift that allows the end of the rail to flip up out of the way in order to avoid that issue!
Consider the best way to start and stop the lift
The goal of a stair lift is to create independence. If the person is able to get on it but unable to operate it, we’ve defeated the purpose! Lifts can come with remotes, buttons on the armrests and switches for safety. Make sure the lift you choose does not require any movement the person is not able to do. For example, if arthritis and grip is a problem, choose a stair lift with a switch right on the handle that requires pushing it left or right instead of squeezing down on a remote button.
Consider how to move the footplate
Again, we are going for independence, so the foot plate will need to be moved up each time the person gets off the stair lift and moved down each time they get on. If reaching down to do that is not a safe option, consider a stair lift that has a powered footplate so it can be controlled by the remote.
Pick the right seat height
Stair lifts also have different seat heights. Be sure to choose one that’s tall enough to get up from easily but is not so high as to require work to get up on it safely. If the primary user will be transferring from a wheelchair to the chair lift, try to make the seat height on the stair lift the same as the wheelchair for the easiest transfer.
Alternatives to a stair lift
Lastly, if the need to use a stair lift is a temporary issue and a capable helper is available, you might consider a stair chair. It’s a wheelchair that can climb the stairs: The helper just has to keep the chair balanced but the power of the chair is handling the weight of the person, and the treads allow the chair to climb up or down the stairs.