For someone with limited mobility or balance issues, installing a stair lift can go a long way towards improving safety while navigating the challenges of accessing multiple levels of their home. In beginning the search for the appropriate stair lift can become overwhelming as there are lots of options and you will need to understand a little about the many options available. Lets talk a little about what a stairlift actually is and some of the top things to consider when choosing the stair lift that is best for your situation:
What is a Stair Lift?
Stair lifts are designed to assist by moving people up and down stairs via a chair or platform moving along a track installed in place at the stairwell. The size, shape, and location of your stairwell help inform the type of stair lift needed, and will be a main component in calculating the final cost of the stair lift. For instance, simple tracks that travel along a straight line are known as a straight stair lift, and stairs that navigate bends and curves are known as curved stair lifts. Straight stair lifts may be less costly than curved stair lifts. Curved stair lifts generally require customization and special fitting to the installation location. One can even choose to have a stair lift installed outside, though special materials may be needed for an outdoor stair lift that must endure a variety of weather conditions.
Despite the large amount of diversity in needs that any given lowered mobility user might have, stair lifts have proven to be an effective way to improve the safety of the independent limited mobility user. Many people find that using a stair lift can help them to avoid the dangers of maneuvering up and down the stairs, enabling them to maintain mobility independence when they would otherwise not be able.
The Best Stair Lift For You
Just as the stairwell determines the type of track needed, the user’s mobility also can help to determine the type of lift needed in order to transport the user. Some lifts are designed to be used in conjunction with a wheelchair or other mobility assistance device; other lifts are designed for direct user interaction as a seat.
Seated lifts can offer comfort, and convenience features such as seat belts, arm rests, foot rests, collapse-ability, and more available to be considered. Even the type of chair and color of upholstery can often be chosen from a range of options, in order to better match the existing decor.
Among the lift options available are also swivel seats, angled seats, a selection of motorized features, and there are even lifts that allow for standing as you travel, for those who might have issues moving between sitting and standing positions.
Because of the large cost difference between curved stair lifts and straight stair lifts, it may make more sense to compare straight and curved stair lifts separately. Depending on the length of the stairs, design complexity, component quality, brand, and other factors, a standard straight stair lift unit that goes over no landings and does not negotiate curves runs between $3,000 and $5,000 total. For a stair lift that must round a curve or turn on a landing, the price may rise to anywhere from $10,000, and up to $15,000. Another option may be to consider ordering a used or refurbished stair lift. A used simple straight stair lift might be found for as little as $1000. However, you will eventually need to have it serviced and we suggest you get one that has a warranty. These are technical electronic devices that can have complications if not properly installed and serviced.
If the stair lift is only needed for a limited time frame, one may consider renting a lift rather than buying one. This may be a way to make it easier on the finances, though rental stair lifts still generally require an installation fee, a monthly service fee, and a removal fee, with some rental stair lift companies also taking a refundable deposit. If one does not plan to be living in their home for much longer or is suffering from a temporary injury, a rental stair lift may be a reasonable solution; otherwise, for long term use it is likely that ownership of one's very own stair lift would be more cost effective.
Accommodating the installation of the stair lift is another thing to consider when making your stair lift purchase. Many lifts run off the power of the installation site’s electricity, or there is the option to go with a battery powered lift if the power to the site is unreliable. It is important to consider the space at the landing around the stairs as well, as the stair lift might need a certain amount of clearance to operate, and the interference of any nearby doors will need to be taken into account. Permanent changes to the installation site might also be made; for instance, installation may require carpet trimming to accommodate screws for mounting brackets.
Installation really is an important aspect of purchasing a stair lift, especially when considering safety and long term use. Some stair lift manufacturers prefer to have a hand in every aspect of installation, including initial site inspection and measurement, while other companies will encourage customers to take their own measurements and will leave it to customer discretion whether an installation technician is needed or not. If one is not comfortable with taking their own measurements and handling installation, it may be best to consider buying from a mobility assistance device retailer or dealer, or directly from a manufacturer, as opposed to ordering online. This way, an installation technician becomes an available option for installation.
Are Stairlifts Covered By Medicare?
The purchase of a stair lift will not qualify for Medicare coverage, as Medicare classifies it as a "home modification" and not "durable medical equipment". On the other hand, Medicaid coverage may vary by state, but there is a chance Medicaid will cover your stair lift installation if it prevents an elderly user from being moved to a nursing home. Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) are the state programs able to provide more information about Medicaid covered installations of stair lifts for the elderly. HCBS waivers cover installation and purchase costs. In addition to waivers from HCBS, stair lifts can also be purchased using regular Medicaid, but regular Medicaid may fully cover the cost.
Curved Stair Lifts
Curved stair lifts and straight stair lifts fulfill essentially the same purpose: moving the lowered mobility user safely and comfortably from one level of a building to another, without incident. Where they differ, however, is in the level of customization needed during the manufacturing and installation processes, and as a result, they can also differ dramatically in price.
Straight Stair Lifts
The straight stair lift is the quickest and least expensive option for installing a stair lift in one's home or business. When considering the fact that straight stair lifts are able to be mass produced as easy to assemble individual components, this makes a lot of sense.
Straight stair lifts come in a couple of basic track configurations, horizontal or vertical, but each involves a toothed track and wheel system for moving the lift, while the curved track will often use two rails for the chair to run along, with a toothed track backing one of these. Curved tracks, or straight tracks that require turns or navigating landings on the other hand require precise measurement and custom design to ensure safety and proper fit is maintained. As a result the price end up being near 2 to 7 times that of a straight stair lift model, depending on what's required.
Outdoor Stair Lifts
If there is an exterior accessibility issue that needs to be addressed, an outdoor stair lift may be the ideal solution. However, if you are considering having a stair lift installed in an outdoor location, it is best that you ensure the stair lift has been approved for outdoor use, and is made of weatherproof materials. This will tend to raise the overall cost of the lift, but in the end, you will have a reliable and safe way to access the exterior locations needed.