As we age, so do our bodies. We begin to walk a little slower and take a little longer to go from point A to B. Mobility issues are just part of growing older. However, it does not mean you can’t make some adjustments to how you move around your own home. Sometimes the need for assistance is just purchasing a walking cane, walker, or wheelchair. But what if it is more serious? Like needing to purchase and installing a stair lift. Whether it is for yourself or a family member, such as a parent, stair lift or Chair lifts) can provide a comfortable seat and lifts the person up the steps by using a stair’s railing as a track. There are several companies that offer stair lifts, and each one has different types of stair lift models. Below we will share the top ten stair lift companies and a short description of what they offer to the consumer. But first, what are stairlifts?
What are Stairlifts?
Stairlifts can provide a convenient way for those with difficulty in mobility to still get up and down stairs without much pain or challenging situations. Stairlifts are on tracks, mounted on the walls of a stairway with a motorized chair that is attached to the tracks. The motorized chair itself has a secure seat that takes the person up and down the stairs. Many come with seatbelts and an emergency button just in case help is needed. The idea of the stairlift is to provide the senior with the freedom to access all levels of a home without the risk of falling. Now let’s talk about the many types of stairlifts available to the seniors in need.
Types of Stair Lifts Available
There are three main types of stairlifts available for home use: straight stair lifts, curved stair lifts, and outdoor stair lifts. Each one can be customized for the individual’s personal needs. Here is a short description of each:
- Straight Stair Lifts – Designed specifically to go straight up to a second story of a home or straight down to a basement or lower level. The installation time is usually minimal, and the rails are standardized.
- Curved Stair Lifts – These require some applications, such as where a curve, bend or landing mid-way up or down the staircase is found. Installation for curved staircases usually have customized rails and may take longer to install. There is also more planning, and the installation process can be more expensive.
- Outdoor Stair Lifts – These are typically installed near or on porches, patios, and decks, helping to navigate seniors where uneven terrain is or off a pier. Some customizations may be required, depending on the design. Outdoor stairlifts are often engineered to withstand outdoor elements using marine-grade vinyl and weatherproof covers.
Wheelchair or Platform Stair Lifts
Wheelchair stair lifts are not necessarily designed for residential homes, due to the size they require. However, they can be very useful for those who need more than the standard seat-style, giving the person more room for a wheelchair to be carried up to a second level of a home. These types of stair lifts provide more power than the traditional stairlifts, such as the straight or curved railing stair lifts. Many times, you may find them in commercial buildings, hospitals, schools, government buildings, or assisted living facilities and nursing homes. The cost of these types of stairlifts can be more expensive, compared to the common residential stair lifts.
How do I know if a Stair Lift is the Right Choice for Me?
When deciding if a stairlift is right for you or a family member, remember that every situation is different. Most, if not all credible companies that provide stairlifts will do an evaluation of not only the home of where the stairlift will be installed, but also the patient or person the stairlift is for. This is to determine which type of stairlift is best needed in the home. Any reputable company will come to the home and offer a free evaluation and discuss if the stairlift is the right choice for the person’s overall needs. If there are any mobility concerns, they should mention it at this time.
Are there Mobility Concerns with Stairlifts?
One of the first considerations that all people with mobility issues should ask is “Do I really need a Stairlift?”. For those who decide on answering yes, then keep in mind this decision should not be taken lightly. Consider your current mobility needs, and how you expect your future mobility issues may increase in difficulty within the next several years. Weigh your concerns with your primary care physician and close loved ones. Older adults that remain in their home during retirement may consider a stairlift as a great investment. It can also help avoid falls and make it more convenient to go from one level of the home with ease. For those with a serious injury, it may be suggested by a doctor to install one in the home anyway. Overall, a stairlift can be a good preventative measure to reducing strain throughout the body before things get worse with age.
The Process of Buying a Stair Lift
After discussing the types of stair lifts there are, important considerations when making your final decision, and if a stairlift fits your needs, let’s discuss the stair lift buying process.
The first step in purchasing a stair lift is to have a professional do an assessment of your home to determine if a stair lift can be installed. Experts will let you know which type of stair lift would be better for your home than other types. Most stairlift companies will provide a free in-home consultation and offer the homeowner a chance to ask questions on what to expect. Most assessments will also include price estimates, provided by the stair lift sales team. They will also assess your budget to determine the best price range for the stairlift that you and your family can afford.
Stair lifts are often custom made. The reason being is that not all stairs are made the same. There are some specifications that sometimes need to be addressed in the home. In addition, some manufacturers and dealers will offer something called reality imaging, which allows the buyer a chance to see how the stair lift will look in the space chosen. Customers can also determine specific add-on components or design features for their personal stairlift.
Once you have selected and chosen your specific design, the last step is installing it in the space that it is designated for. Some people may feel that if they are handy in the garage, then they should have no issue with installing the product themselves. However, it is highly recommended that the installation be done by experienced professionals with a keen understanding of the product and how they work together. By allowing the professionals to do their job, you will have the assurance that it was done well, and everything will function the right way, giving you a feeling of assurance and safety when you use it.
One last thing to consider when purchasing a stairlift is the effect it may have on the value of your home. Although stairlifts can be removed, they can cause holes in the wood or damage some carpeting.
Is Buying a Stairlift a long-term commitment?
There are many reasons why people will invest into a stairlift in their home. One major reason is for preventative measures. No one wants to lose their balance while walking up and down a stairway, yet for older adults, it is more common to lose their footing as they age. Sometimes a stair lift is suggested even after a fall has already occurred or the senior has a recent injury where a stair lift would be beneficial to have in the home. Or there are times when the older adult has been diagnosed with a debilitating illness or disease, causing permanent damage and the unlikeliness of walking independently again is slim. For some, a stair lift can be a temporary solution, such as if the older adult had a minor surgery and just needs a few weeks to recover. In this case, renting a stairlift may be a better choice. However, there will still be an installation fee, including a renter’s fee. On the other hand, if you feel that even with surgery you may still depend on needing a stair lift for future issues, then buying the stair lift may be worth it. Whatever the choice that is made, always weigh out the options and discuss it with close family members.
What is the Cost of a Stair lift?
Since there are many types of models and several stair lift companies, there is no set price for a stair lift. It just depends on the make and model that you choose for your home. However, the average range of a stair lift may cost somewhere between $2,500 and $15,000. I know, it’s a broad price range. In fact, certain factors are needed to make a reasonable estimate for each home. For example, longer stair lifts are often more expensive than short ones, and curved stair lifts are usually more costly than straight rail ones. So, for those who expect to need a stair lift that is not only long, but also curves up along the wall, then the price will most definitely be at the higher end of the range. Another reason curved stair lifts are expensive compared to others is that they require two separate motors: one that moves the chair and one that adjusts the height of the chair to keep it level as it goes up and down the stairs. If you really need a stair lift yet do not want to pay the hefty cost, looking to rent one can save lots of money. Plus, some companies may have used ones for a certain percentage off the going rate.
Now let’s consider some add-ons…
Certain add-on features may be available on some types of models. However, the buyer should be aware that this may add to the total price of a stair lift. Here is a list of some of the additional features available to buy.
Power Supply: Some stair lifts can run on just batteries and receive a charge whenever they are docked. On average, they may come with a generous 12 feet cable length, that can easily reach the wall AC outlet. Depending on the model, components can be made of CE/UL standard high quality, and fire-retardant material. Some also come with a 1-year manufacturer warranty on parts against manufacturing defect. A stair lift may be hardwired to receive continuous power. The type of power that it receives may also impact price.
Retractable Elements: Stair lifts can also have retractable seats, armrests, and footrests. This is to keep them out of the way when not in use. These pieces of rail can also be made to retract and fold out of the way when the chair is not needed.
Seat Belts and Harnesses: Seat belts are standard on stair lifts, helping to ensure the safety of the one using it. They can also be upgraded to be made retractable or replaced entirely with harnesses that better support the body.
Controls and Sensors: Certain features such as motion sensors can detect obstacles on the stairs and stop the lift from going up or down. There may also be a manual shutoff button or a remote that can call the chair to go up or down.
How Do I Pay for a Stair Lift?
For many, buying a stair lift can be one of the most expensive items in your home. If you are on a fixed budget, deciding the buy one is something to not take lightly. It is recommended to consult a professional in elder law and get the big picture of your financial health when determining these options. Keep in mind, there may be some Medicare Advantage plans available to help with the cost of installing the stair lift. Some programs through the Veterans Affairs association or nonprofit organizations may also help with the expense.