How to Choose a Good Home Stair Lift

Can you provide some information about stair lifts? I have a difficult time getting up and down the stairs and am interested in purchasing a stair lift for my house but could use some help choosing one.

A good home stair lift is an excellent solution for those with mobility challenges. A stair lift will carry you up and down the stairs in a safe, seated position and provide easy access to the second story or basement level of your home.

To help you choose a quality stair lift that meets your needs and budget, here are a few shopping tips and recommendations.

Types of Lifts

There are two basic types of stair lifts that are sold today: straight and curved. The type you need will depend upon the design of your staircase.

A straight stair lift is one that travels in a straight line up a flight of stairs uninterrupted by landings, bends or curves. These stair lifts can cost between $2,500 and $5,000. Curved lifts, however, are much more elaborate and will go around corners, bends and curves. Curved lifts are much more expensive, typically costing between $8,500 and $15,000 or more depending on the complexity of the installation.

All stair lifts mount to the stair treads, not to the wall, so they are very sturdy and can be installed in almost any home. In addition to the standard option, companies also offer a heavy-duty lift with a wider seat and bigger lifting capacity. If you are tall, you will need to find out about raising the seat height during installation.

Most stair lifts available today also have seats, armrests and footplates that fold up out of the way when not in use. Some stair lifts have swivel seats that make getting into and out of the chair easier. Make sure the lift you choose has standard safety features, like seatbelts, braking systems, footrest sensors, push-button or rocker-switch controls located on the armrest for easy operation and "call send" controls, which allow you to call or send the unit to the other end of the stairs.

Depending on the company, you may also have the option of choosing between an electric (AC) and a battery powered (DC) stair lift. Battery powered units charge at the base station and are quieter and smoother than electric lifts. Another reason to go with a battery powered stair lift is that the system will work even if there is a power failure in the home.

Purchasing Tips

While there are many companies that make and sell stair lifts, two of the best, based on reputation and customer satisfaction ratings, are Bruno and Stannah.

Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover stair lifts nor do Medicare supplemental (Medigap) policies, but some Medicare Advantage plans may help pay. Many states offer Medicaid waivers that will pay for lifts for those that qualify. The VA offers cash grants to veterans with disabilities for home safety improvements.

To save some money, you may want to consider purchasing a used or refurbished model. If you only need a stair lift for a short period of time, consider renting one. Most companies offer these options along with financing programs.

To get started, contact some stair lift companies and ask to be put in touch with a dealer in your area. All dealers provide free in-home assessments and estimates and can help you choose an appropriate lift.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

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