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Which Stairlift Is Right For You And Your Home?

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A Three-Step Guide to Choosing the Best Stairlift to Meet Your Needs

By Guest Author Jared Chevraux, Executive VP, JTEK Solutions Group, LLC

Do you or a special person in your life have trouble with the stairs in your home? A stairlift may be the solution to safer and more independent living on all floors. Let’s explore how to select a stairlift model that works for your home and, just as importantly, works for you, the user. This basic guide is designed to help you narrow down your options and identify your needs before calling a stairlift installer for a quote. 

1. Identify the staircase and measure for suitability. 

Will a stairlift fit? Most staircases are suitable for a stairlift installation, but not all. Of the six brands I have experience with, most of them require at least 30 inches of clearance between the stairs. Any narrower, and there’s a good chance the user’s knees will come into contact with the wall. Simply use a tape measurer or yard stick to determine if you have the minimum space needed for installation. 

What type of stairs do you have? A straight staircase is common in many homes in Northeast Ohio, but it’s not uncommon for a staircase to have a landing and a turn, or feature a curve partially or continually in the stair run. Stairlifts for straight staircases are the most economical. Many dealers can install them within days of your first call. Curved staircases are custom made for each individual staircase. For most curved or turning stairs, the dealer will conduct a detailed measurement of the staircase with a camera survey system and software that will map out a guide for the engineers to design and build a one-of-a-kind stairlift rail. Because of these factors, you can expect a longer lead time and a higher price for a curved stairlift. 

Is an electrical outlet nearby at the top or bottom of the staircase? All stairlifts run on batteries and park on battery chargers at the top and bottom of the stairs. The unit will require a standard electrical outlet, usually within ten feet of the top or bottom of the stairs. 

2. Determine the features that matter to you, the user. 

Can you, the user, sit or transfer onto the seat of the stairlift? Can you sit comfortably in an upright position? If not, can you lean on a “perch seat” in a standing position while the lift is in motion? Do you have the ability to operate the hand control, or will you need assistance from a caregiver using the remote control?  

All stairlift seats swivel toward the landing at the top for safety. Can you manually swivel the seat, or will a powered swivel feature be necessary?  

Will the standard seatbelt provide enough safety and stability, or will a body harness be a better fit for you? 

What is the weight and height of the individual using the lift? Stairlifts have varying weight capacities and height limits that need to be considered. 

Are you, the stairlift user, living alone? Motion sensors are now available to fit any stairlift that will notify family or caregivers if the stairlift is not used when it should be, or if the stairlift starts a trip but doesn’t get to the top or bottom. 

Answering the questions above before the next step will make it easier to find the best possible fit for the situation. 

3. Find the right company to install your new stairlift. 

As we saw in steps one and two, there are many factors to consider when selecting the right stairlift for your home. Unfortunately, not all stairlift manufacturers offer all of the features mentioned above. Because if this, I believe it is vital that you find the right installation company for your individual needs. A company that offers more than one brand is more likely to meet your needs than a company dedicated to selling one brand of stairlift. Call on several installation companies and ask if they offer the features you need before scheduling a visit to your home. If possible, visit showrooms and actually ride several stairlift models. Take a test drive! Do not fall for a “one-size-fits-all” sales approach.  

Finally, consider the budget. If a Medicaid waiver is available to the user, make sure your installer is a qualified waiver provider. Exercise your right to free choice of provider to make sure you are getting the stairlift and installation company that is best suited for you, the recipient.  

I hope this article helped you to become a bit more knowledgeable and comfortable with the process of adding a stairlift to your home with the goal of increasing safety and independence. If you have any questions, concerns, or you feel you have a need I did not touch base on, ask your local stairlift companies for answers. You can also email me at [email protected], and I will do my best to find a solution.