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Stair Lift Safety Features For Seniors

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Stair lifts (aka chair lifts) can truly be a life saver.  They help to prevent falls (so very important for our senior loved ones) and they give the home owner an incredible sense of independence and mobility.

But many ask the question, are stair lifts safe? – In other words, can they be dangerous?  If a stair lift is installed properly and if it’s used properly then the answer is an absolute YES, they are very safe.  Top rated companies like StairLift King work hard to put their products through a series of safety tests to ensure it’s safety for their customers.

So, what exactly makes a chair lift safe?  What are the features and components that you need to be looking out for?

Here are just some of the factors that you should be checking  which will tell you how safe your stair lift product will be.

  • Safety restraints – yes, these great chairs do come with seat belts for the user and restraints for wheelchairs.  It’s imperative that the person using Stair liftthe stair lift be cognizant enough to use these, especially if they live alone or are unattended for any period of time.
  • Adjustable footrests – having footrests that can be moved out of the way when the person reaches their destination is very important.  Very much like the footrests 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.
  • Adjustable seats – a 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 especially if there are others in the household.  Seats that swivel are also very important for safety issues because it allows the user to swivel their chair towards the floor making standing up from their chair lift very safe.
  • Obstruction alerts – another important feature to consider is the ability to stop it’s motion when an obstruction in it’s path is detected.
  • Alternate power – we have all gone through periods of time when the power goes out.  You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of the stairs, on a stair lift with no power.  Look for ones that have a battery power backup system.
  • Clean and smooth construction – you want a stair lift that has an enclosed motor and as little objects as possible that could possibly get the user’s clothing caught up in it.
  • Proper installation – pretty sure this goes without saying but I am including it anyway in this list.  It’s important to choose a company with a high level of satisfaction from it’s customers.  You want to ensure that the installation is done 100% properly for maximum safety.
  • User capability – if the person using the stair lift lives alone for any length of time, it’s extremely important that they have the physical strength to use it and have the cognitive capacity to use it.
  • A smooth ride – this feature may not qualify as a “safety” feature but it will go a long way for the elderly person using it if they can ride it up and down in comfort.
  • 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.

Safety is of course, the number one priority when choosing a stair lift product.  Although there are multiple ways that you can make a two story home safer for seniors, the installation and use of a stair lift product is the ultimate in safety.  They all provide the same service of granting more independence and mobility to your elderly parents or loved ones but just like anything else, each manufacturer and model will offer their own unique set of features.

Knowing the needs and capabilities of the person who will be ultimately using the chair lift is important in helping you to make the decision on which one to purchase.

So, if you are in the market for stair lifts or just poking around for more information about it in anticipation of possibly purchasing one, we can help answer some of your questions here.

What Is The Minimum Width For A Stair Lift?

In order to accommodate a stair lift product, staircases must be at least 29 inches wide at the very minimum.

Are Stair Lifts Covered By Medicare?

Does Medicare pay for stair lifts?
Sorry to say that as of January 2019, stair lifts are not considered 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 nonetheless, you should be aware of it.

Original Medicare might pay for a small portion of the cost if the stair lift has an elevating seat, which helps the rider to sit down and get up from the chair safely. However, such a feature would only be available in a high-end stair chair, which would cost considerably more than the amount original Medicare would reimburse the purchaser.

In other words, the amount of financial assistance would be less than the additional cost for a stair lift that has that feature.

But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find funding for it elsewhere.  Here are some areas that you can look into which may be able to help you with the cost of the stair lift.

If You Are A Veteran

If you were in the military, you may be able to get funding from the Veteran’s Administration (VA), the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit.

As a veteran you can also apply for a grant from any of the following:

  • HISA Grant (Home Improvements and Structural Alterations)
  • SAH Grant (Specially Adapted Housing)

Will Medicaid Pay For Stair Lifts?

Since Medicaid is different in every state, it’s difficult to tell you if the state that you are living in (or the state your senior loved one lives in) will pay for a stair lift.

But, as again noted in PayingForSeniorCare.com

Medicaid will likely cover the cost for medically necessary, stair lifts provided they enable individuals to remain living in their homes and avoid nursing home placement.

Check out our list of phone numbers to Medicaid offices in every state.  Give them a call to find out if you can get some funding for your stair lift project.

State Assisted Programs

There are many state assisted programs through Medicaid that are very good resources to help you fund your stair lift project (and other needs as well).

Below is the contact list for the Medicaid program in each US state.

STATE MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER
Alabama State of Alabama Medicaid
2800 Dauphin St #105, Mobile, AL 36606
251-470-8700
Alaska State Alaska Medicaid
4501 Business Park Blvd # 24, Anchorage, AK 99503
907-334-2400
Arizona Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System
2717 N Fourth St, Flagstaff, AZ 86004
928-527-4104
Arkansas TArkansas Division of Medical Services
Department of Human Services
Donaghey Plaza South
P. O. Box 1437, Slot S401
Little Rock, Arkansas 72203-1437
800-482-5431
California California MMIS Fiscal Intermediary
820 Stillwater Road
West Sacramento, CA 95605-1630
800-541-5555
Colorado Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing
1570 Grant Street · Denver, CO 80203-1818
800-221-3943
Connecticut HUSKY Health Program
c/o Department of Social Services
55 Farmington Avenue
Hartford, CT 06105
877-284-8759
Delaware DHSS Herman Holloway Campus, Lewis Building
1901 N. DuPont Highway, New Castle, DE 19720
302-255-9500
District of Columbia Washington DC Department Human Services
1207 Taylor St NW, Washington, DC 20011
855-532-5465
Florida ACCESS Central Mail Center
P.O. Box 1770
Ocala, FL 34478-1770
866-762-2237
Georgia Georgia Medicaid
2 Peachtree Street, NW
Atlanta, GA 30303
404-656-4507
Hawaii (Oahu) State of Hawaii Med QUEST
P.O. Box 3490
Honolulu, HI 96811-3490
808-524-3370
Hawaii (Neighbor Islands) NA 800-316-8005
Idaho Idaho Department of Health & Welfare
450 W State St, Boise, ID 83702
877-456-1233
Illinois Illinois Department of Health Care and Family Services
2200 Churchill Rd, Springfield, IL 62702
800-843-6154
Indiana Indiana Family and Social Services Administration
402 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46204
800-403-0864
Iowa Iowa Medicaid Enterprises
100 Army Post Rd, Des Moines, IA 50315
515-256-4606
Kansas Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services
503 S Kansas Ave, Topeka, KS 66603
785-296-4986
Kentucky Medicaid Services Department
275 E Main St, Frankfort, KY 40601
502-564-4321
Louisiana Medicaid
628 N 4th St, Baton Rouge, LA 70802
225-342-5568
Maine Office of Mainecare Services
242 State St, Augusta, ME 04333
207-287-2674
Maryland Maryland Department of Health
201 W Preston St, Baltimore, MD 21201
410-767-6500
Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services
1 Ashburton Pl 11th floor, Boston, MA 02108
617-573-1600
Michigan Michigan Department of Human Services
325 M-62, Cassopolis, MI 49031
269-445-0233
Minnesota Department of Human Services MinnesotaCare
540 Cedar St, St Paul, MN 55101
651-297-3862
Mississippi Mississippi Medicaid Registration Office – Columbus
603 Leigh Dr, Columbus, MS 39705
662-329-2190
Missouri MO HealthNet
615 Howerton Ct, Jefferson City, MO 65109
573-751-3425
Montana Medicaid Services
700 Casey St A, Butte, MT 59701
888-706-1535
Nebraska Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services
1501 Plum Creek Pkwy, Lexington, NE 68850
402-473-7000
Nevada Medicaid District Office
1100 E William St # 101, Carson City, NV 89701
775-684-3600
New Hampshire New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services
129 Pleasant St, Concord, NH 03301
603-271-9700
New Jersey Medicaid District
100 Hamilton Plaza #500, Paterson, NJ 07505
973-977-4077
New Mexico New Mexico Human Services Department
1711 Randolph Rd SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106
505-383-2600
New York New York City Medicaid Office
441 Clarkson Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11203
718-221-2317
North Carolina 2501 Mail Service Center
Raleigh NC 27699-2501
919-855-4100
North Dakota Medical Services Division
600 E Boulevard Ave # 325, Bismarck, ND 58505
701-328-2321
Ohio Ohio Department of Medicaid
50 W Town St #400, Columbus, OH 43215
800-324-8680
Oklahoma Oklahoma Health Care Authority
4345 N Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City, OK 73105
405-522-7300
Oregon Oregon Health Plan
500 Summer St NE, Salem, OR 97301
503-947-2340
Pennsylvania Medical Assistance Programs
625 Forster St # 515, Harrisburg, PA 17105
717-787-1870
Puerto Rico Department of Health (MEDICAID)
Carolina, 00985, Puerto Rico
787-641-4224
Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Hazard Building
3 W Rd, Cranston, RI 02920
401-462-5274
South Carolina S C Department-Social Services Medicaid
1000 N Pine St, Spartanburg, SC 29303
888-549-0820
South Dakota South Dakota Department of Social Services
700 Governors Dr, Pierre, SD 57501
605-773-3165
Tennessee Medicaid Administration
310 Great Circle Rd, Nashville, TN 37243
800-342-3145
Texas Texas Department of Health And Human Services
1101 E Old Settlers Blvd, Round Rock, TX 78664
800-647-6558
Utah Utah State Government Medicaid
515 E 100 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84102
801-536-8798
Vermont Department of Vermont Health Access
312 Hurricane Ln, Williston, VT 05495
800-250-8427
Virginia Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services
600 E Broad St, Richmond, VA 23219
804-786-7933
Washington DSHS CSD – Customer Service Center
PO BOX 11699
Tacoma, WA 98411-6699
877-501-2233
West Virginia West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR)
East, 350 Capitol St, Charleston, WV 25301
304-558-0684
Wisconsin Wisconsin Department of Health Services
1 W Wilson St # 350, Madison, WI 53703
608-266-2522
Wyoming Wyoming Medicaid
6101 Yellowstone Rd #210, Cheyenne, WY 82009
307-777-7531

Are Stair Lifts Tax Deductible?

In order for any medical equipment to qualify for a tax deduction, it must be considered medically necessary.  This means that you must have a prescription or written recommendation from your doctor.

Generally, most home modifications that are done for the purpose of making the home a safer environment for the senior who is aging in place can be tax deductible.

Here is a list of the types of modifications the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says can be deducted from your taxes.

  • Modifying doorways (interior and exterior) usually by widening them to accommodate wheelchairs
  • Installing porch lifts and other types of lifts
  • Wheelchair ramps
  • Modifications of alarm systems which also includes smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, etc.
  • Modifications of door knobs and other handles
  • Modifications of hallways – normally by widening them for wheelchair use
  • Modifications of kitchen and bathroom cabinets, countertops and equipment.  This includes lowering them to make it easier for a wheelchair bound individual to use them safely.
  • Moving or modifying electrical outlets and fixtures for the purpose of making them safely accessible to the user.
  • Installation of grab bars anywhere in the house
  • Modifying stairways which includes making stair steps less slippery, installation of stair lifts, etc.
  • Grading of the exterior ground around the entrances and exits to the house for the purpose of making access to and from the home safer.

I recommend that you speak with your accountant about the specifics on medical tax deductions.

What Is The Average Price For A Stair Lift?

On average, a chair lift can cost you anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 for a straight staircase.  If you have a curved staircase you can probably expect to pay $10,000 or more.

The cost seems high, but considering the value that the stair lift gives you such as independence, security and the ability to age in place, it makes the price tag much more reasonable.  Also, it may be cheaper than moving into a single story home.

How Long Should A Stair Lift Last?

The general estimated lifespan of a stair lift 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 your stair lift maintained once a year.  Just like most any other mechanical appliance in your home, a proper maintenance schedule will keep it running smoothly and for a longer lifespan.

How Do I Choose A Stair Lift?

Choosing a stair lift product requires a little bit of homework, but it’s worth it.  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.

  1. 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 have a curved staircase, your budget will have to begin around $10,000.
  2. 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.
  3. Options – there will be models that have multiple options such as swivel seats, larger sized seats and footrests, upholstery color, etc.

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

Related Questions

Can stair lifts turn corners? – Yes.  There are models available that can turn corners.  They are more expensive but you can purchase stair lifts to accommodate most any stairway structure.

How much weight can a stair lift take? – Most stair lift products can hold up to a range of 280 to 350 pounds.  There are specialty stair lifts that can accommodate up to 500 pounds.  Generally, severely overweight individuals will have a problem finding a chair lift product that can handle their weight.


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