OKLAHOMA CITY – One of the best tools for maintaining independence in the face of aging is a stairlift – a device that enables seniors with mobility or balance issues to ride comfortably up and down a flight of stairs in a safe seated position. A stairlift can mean the difference between staying safe and independent or giving up your home completely.
To help you choose a quality stair lift that meets your needs and budget, here are a few shopping tips, along with some top-rated companies that make them.
Types of Lifts
There are two basic types of stair lifts that are sold today: straight and curved. The type you need will depend upon the design of your staircase.
A straight stairlift is one that travels in a straight line up a flight of stairs uninterrupted by landings, bends or curves, and costs between $2,500 and $5,000 installed. Curved lifts, however, are much more elaborate and will go around corners, bends and changes in direction. Curved lifts are also much more expensive, typically running between $8,500 and $15,000 or more depending on the complexity of the installation.
You also need to know that all stair lifts mount to the stair treads, not to the wall, so they are very sturdy and can be installed in almost any home.
Most stair lifts available today have seats, armrests and footplates that fold up out of the way, and swivel seats that make getting into and out of the chair much easier. They also come with standard safety features like seatbelts, braking systems and footrest sensors, push-button or rocker-switch controls located on the armrest for easy operation, and “call send” controls which allow you to call or send the chair to the other end of the stairs. Make sure the lift you choose has all these features.
Depending on the company, you may also have the option of choosing between an electric (AC) and a battery powered (DC) stair lift. Battery powered units charge at the base station (some recharge anywhere on the track) are quieter, smoother and better than electric lifts, and will work even if there’s a power failure in the home.
Where to Shop
While there are many companies that make and sell stair lifts, two of the best, based on reputation and customer satisfaction ratings, are Bruno (Bruno.com, 800-454-4355) and Stannah (Stannah-Stairlifts.com, 888-465-7652).
Unfortunately, original Medicare does not cover stair lifts nor do Medicare supplemental (Medigap) policies, but some Medicare Advantage plans may help pay. There are also many states that offer Medicaid waivers that will pay for lifts to those that qualify, and the VA offers cash grants to veterans with disabilities for home safety improvements.
To save some money, you may want to consider purchasing a used or refurbished model. Or, if you need a stair lift for only a short period of time, consider renting one. Most companies offer these options, and many offer financing programs too.
To get started, contact some stairlift companies who will put you in touch with a dealer in your area. All dealers provide free in-home assessments and estimates and can help you choose an appropriate lift.