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Are Stair Lifts Safe? Safety Features To Look For

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Stair lifts are safe if they are installed properly (by an experienced professional installer) and if the user(s) operate the stair lift correctly and according to the instructions by the manufacturer.

What Is A Stair Lift?

“A stair lift is a mechanical device for lifting people up and down stairs.”

Wikipedia

Stair Lifts for seniors can truly be a life saver for many older adults and disabled persons who are aging in place in their own home or if they are living with a family member. This is especially true if they are dealing with limited mobility issues in a multi level home.

They are the ultimate in home safety as they help to older adults to get to and from the second floor of their home. They can also help to prevent falls. They give the home owner an incredible sense of independence and mobility.

It’s a product that can also provide great peace of mind for the caregivers of elderly adults.

A stair lift (sometimes called chair lifts or stair chairs) can be a major purchase but it’s a home modification that may be well worth the cost for you especially if you (or a senior loved one) uses mobility aids like a walker or a cane and is unable to manage a flight of stairs in their home.

There are different styles and models to choose from. There are straight stair lifts and models that can accommodate curved stairs. But whichever one you choose, make sure to select a stair lift model that meets as many of the 17 safety features and tips that we list below.

Note that you can also rent one as well if you anticipate needing it for a short time.

17 Stair Lift Safety Tips and Features To Consider

The safety of someone using a stair lift (or any assistive device) should be of top concern for any manufacturer and buyer.

Here are our safety tips on what key safety features to look for when you get ready to make your selection and purchase.

Some of these may seem like common sense but it’s always worth reviewing.

  1. Safety Standard Guidelines – An important thing for optimal safety is to make sure that the manufacturer you are purchasing from has followed and met the safety standards that are put out by the (ASME) American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
  2. Safety Belts – Yes, seat belts are a top priority as well as restraints for wheelchairs. It’s imperative that the person using the lift be cognizant enough to use the retractable seat belt, especially if they live alone or are unattended for any period of time.
  3. Arm Rests – It may seem like such a silly little thing but having arm rests that are comfortable for the user can make riding the stair lift a better ride.
  4. Remote Control – Some stair lifts can be operated by remote control. This can be very useful if there are two individuals in the home who need to use it. If the stair lift is parked at the top of the stairs, someone at the bottom of the stairs can use the remote control to bring it back down for their use.
  5. Adjustable Foot Rests – Having foot rests that can be moved out of the way when the person reaches their destination is very important. Very much like the foot rests on a wheelchair, if you try to stand up without moving them you are forced into an awkward position which can facilitate a fall followed by an injury.
  6. Adjustable Seats – A stair lift seat that is comfortable is of course important. But being able to fold away the seat when the unit is not in use is a plus to avoid a tripping hazard. An adjustable seat height feature as well as the ability to swivel once you reach the bottom or the top of the stairs are two very important features for safety.
  7. Maximum Weight Limit – Most stairlifts can accommodate a maximum weight of 300 lbs and some can go as high as 350 lbs.
  8. Extended Rail – This allows the lift to continue moving past the staircase. If the user has any problems with their balance, an extended rail would be an excellent option.
  9. Obstruction Sensors – Another important feature to consider are safety sensors which gives the lift the ability to stop it’s motion when an obstruction in it’s path is detected. Important on curved lifts and straight lifts.
  10. Alternate Power – We have all gone through periods of time when the electricity goes out. You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of the stairs with no power. Look for lifts with power options that include AC powered which have a battery power backup system.
  11. Clean and Smooth Construction – You want a lift that has an enclosed motor and as few objects as possible that could possibly get the user’s clothing caught up in it.
  12. Proper Installation Process – It’s important to choose a company with a high level of satisfaction from it’s customers and uses trained professionals and experienced technicians to install your stair lift. You want to ensure that the stair lift installation is done 100% properly for maximum safety and that they consider the structural integrity of your home before you make your purchase. Remember that you will need an electrical outlet nearby.
  13. User Capability – If the user lives alone for any length of time, it’s extremely important that they have the physical strength and cognitive ability to use their lift properly, to buckle up and use the seat belt correctly and to be able to get on and off the lift safely. But if they require a little extra help to use the lift then it may not be appropriate for them if they are left alone for any length of time.
  14. A Smooth Ride – A proper lift installation should provide it’s user with a comfortable ride, especially from a curved stairlift. Since they are mounted onto the stair treads (not the wall) they should be able to provide a comfortable and smooth ride.
  15. Proper Maintenance – Finally, like any appliance or apparatus in your home, you want to keep up with a yearly maintenance schedule so that you can ensure it’s working at it’s optimal best and continues to do so for years to come.
  16. A Warranty – Most (if not all) home lift products come with some type of warranty that can range from a 2 to a 10 year warranty on their product so make sure you know what the warranty covers and the length of time it’s valid. Also, you may want to consider asking about an extended warranty.
  17. New vs. Used Stair Lift – It’s not necessary to purchase a new stairlift. Many manufacturers offer used stairlifts as well which can save you some money.

If you are considering a home stair lift and would like to speak to a manufacturer – consider calling StairLift King!

Frequently Asked Questions About Stair Lifts

Below are answers to some of the most important and common questions that seniors and their families are asking about lift products.

But I would encourage you to ask as many questions as you can during the installation process. You can learn some great tips from the experts.

You can also read this excellent guide from AginginPlace.org

Who Needs A Stair Lift?

Any homeowner or resident with mobility issues can benefit from using a stair lift.
Older adults may be able to care for themselves without daily assistance but may still have problems managing a staircase.
Issues could be due to weak muscles, cardiac or lung diseases, post stroke or head injury and many other reasons could be the cause of their difficulties in managing stairs.

What Is The Minimum Width For A Stair Lift?

Staircases must be at least 29 inches wide at the very minimum in order to accommodate either a straight lift or a curved rail lift.

How Much Do Stair Lifts Cost?

Stair lift prices vary depending on the model you choose and the type of installation you need which depends on the type of staircase you have.

A straight rail stair lift is installed on staircases with no landing, just a straight set of stairs. Prices range from $3,000 to $5,000.

Curved rail lifts are installed on staircases with curves and turns. Prices range about $10,000 or more.

Platform lifts are used for wheelchair bound individuals. Prices begin at about $2,000 or more.

An outdoor stairlift can be installed on decks and entryways, etc. and can withstand outdoor weather. Prices start around $4,500 or more.

You can check for used stair lift chairs as well – here is a list of where to begin your search.

The installation cost may seem high, especially for curved lifts, but considering the value that this product gives you such as independence, security and the ability to age in place, it makes the price tag much more reasonable. Also, this home modification may be cheaper than moving into a single story home.

Can I Get Help To Pay For A Stair Lift?

A new stair lift can be expensive, no doubt. You may be able to save some money by purchasing a used stairlift. But, the cost can still be high.

So you may be wondering if there is financial help to pay for one. There are a variety of ways that you can go about getting some help to pay for a stair lift.

*Medicare advantage plans and Medicaid may cover some or all of the cost
*If you are a veteran, the VA may provide some help
*There are multiple local and state programs to look into
*There are also charitable programs that you may qualify for

I would encourage you to contact the National Council on Independent Living Center for information about local funding sources for financial assistance to help you pay for one.

For more help on how to pay for a home stair lift – click here.

If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan , check with your care/case manager to find out if some home modification costs may be covered in the plan (note: those that do generally require participation in a care management program).” – 101mobility.com

Does Medicare Cover Stair Lifts?

As of September 2020, Medicare does not consider stair lifts to be Durable Medical Equipment (DME) and as a result, Medicare will not pay for it.

But, according to Payingforseniorcare.com , there may be a little bit of a loophole. It may not be one that you can take advantage of but certainly worth investigating.

You can read more about funding for stair lifts here.

How Long Should A Stair Lift Last?

The general estimated lifespan is 10 years. But of course, like any other mechanical product, that lifespan depends on how often it’s used, how well it’s used (in other words, is it mis-used?) and also how well it’s maintained.

I recommend that you have a yearly routine maintenance performed on your stair lift. Just like most any other mechanical appliance in your home, a proper maintenance schedule will keep it running smoothly and for a longer lifespan.

Do Stair Lifts Use A Lot Of Electricity?

Generally, they do not use much electricity at all. In fact, according to Lifewaymobility.com they tend to use about $15.00 per year.

After you have a stair lift installed, you won’t notice any significant changes to your home’s electric bill. A stair lift is energy efficient and uses approximately .024 kWh of electricity and should cost less than $15 per year.” – lifewaymobility.com

There are other power options available. AC powered stair lifts of course also have battery backups just in case of a power outage in your home.

How Do I Choose A Stair Lift?

Choosing a home stair lift product requires a little bit of homework, but it’s worth it if you are aging in place. Like most any other appliance or product that you purchase these days, you have multiple options so knowing what you need will help you select the best choice for you.

Budget – if you are paying for the stair lift out of your own pocket you will want to find out what options you can get for your budget. The basic stair lift is about $3,000 (for a straight staircase) so you can begin your budget there. But if you need a curved stair lift, your budget will have to begin around $10,000.
Weight Capacity – make sure to purchase a stair lift that can accommodate the weight of it’s user. This generally only becomes a problem if the person who will be using it is over 350 lbs.
Options – there will be models that have multiple options such as swivel seats, larger sized seats and footrests, upholstery color, etc.
Models – the four model options to choose from are straight stairlifts, curved rail stair lifts, platform stair lifts (for wheelchairs) and outdoor stair lifts.

For more information about stair lifts contact a local dealer. Click here for a list of stair lift dealers in each US state.

Or, you can call StairLift King directly for information about their products.

How Much Weight Can A Stair Lift Hold?

Most stair lifts for seniors can carry heavy loads – up to a range of 280 to 350 pounds. There are specialty models that can accommodate up to 500 pounds. Generally, severely overweight individuals do have a problem finding one that can handle their weight.

All in all, if independent living is important to you – and you live in a multi level home – consider any one of the different stair lift models available that would meet your specific needs.

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