Managing Stairs: The Stair Lift
By Susan Luxenberg, President, HomeSmart LLC
There are many different types of stair lifts: straight rail stair lifts, curved rail stair lifts, indoor as well as outdoor stair lifts. They can be purchased new or used. [If you have experience with a lift, please tell us about it in our comments section below.]
You do not need to have aging infirmities or be a wheelchair user to be faced with a challenge when negotiating stairs. Leg or back injuries can also make stair climbing painful if not impossible. One of the best options for handling the stairways found both inside your home and out is a stair lift.
Stair lifts are chairs that ride on a rail up and down a staircase. While stair lifts are usually not practical for wheelchair users, they are ideal for those with strength, balance, respiratory or cardiac problems. The user approaches the chair, sits down, presses the button and off they go.
There are many models of stair lifts but they all have basically the same features and operate the same way. A standard installation involves bolting a rail to the stair treads (not the wall), attaching a chair to the rail, and mounting call/send switches at both the top and bottom of the staircase.
Stair lifts can be built for staircases with outside or inside curves and can also be set up to handle flat landings with turns. Most stair lifts have a seat belt, locking swivel seats and safety switches which will stop the unit’s travel if the stair lift comes in contact with obstacles, pets or people. Some manufacturers have folding hinged tracks that allow the track to fold out of the way when the stair lift is not being used. The illustration below shows various workable configurations for stair lift equipment. Basically they can be set up to work with any staircase.
Stair lifts are no longer bulky pieces of equipment but rather have been redesigned to be as unobtrusive as possible and to fit in with your decor. You can now choose seat styles ranging from traditional to modern and select between upholstery fabrics and colors.
The costs of stair lifts vary and can range from about $1,500.00 to $3,000.00 for straight units and $5,000.00 to $20,000.00 for curved units.Stair lifts can also be rented for those whose physical condition is likely to deteriorate in the foreseeable future to the point where accessing the seat becomes impossible, or if you only need a short term solution. To be able to use a stair lift the user needs to be able to stand at least well enough to do a standing transfer on and off the seat at the top and bottom of the stairs.
Do your research first to determine those features you’d like – it’s easy enough to get manufacturer’s information and general pricing online. Once you’ve found a company that installs the product you like, you can ask for their assistance in determining the appropriate configuration for your specific situation.
Susan Luxenberg, President, HomeSmart LLC