Everything You Need to Know about Stair Lifts

As much as 40 percent of senior citizens suffer from a disability with impaired mobility the most common issue reported. In many cases, reduced mobility leads to less independence. The good news is that home stair lifts are an increasingly affordable solution for the elderly and mobility-impaired, but it's important to understand your needs before purchasing this potentially life-changing product.

Types of Stair Lifts

Before you start looking at specific models and brands, you need to know what type of stair lift works in your home. Stair lifts are available in either battery-powered or electric models.

Straight Stair Lift

This is the most common type of stair lift as well as the most affordable option and will be the ideal choice if you have stairs that go straight up from one level to another. Straight lifts mount to your stair treads and travel in a straight line without interruption by landings, curves or turns. Because of its simpler design, this is also the most affordable type of lift, and you can expect to pay somewhere between $3,000 and 5,000 to install a straight stair lift.

Curved Stair Lift

If your stairs are more elaborate and include details like landings or turns, you will need a curved stair lift. This type of lift is functionally the same as a straight stair lift in that it mounts on your stair treads and moves you from one level to the next while comfortably seated in a chair. However, to accommodate a broader range of motion, more complicated components are needed which makes a curved stair lift more expensive. If you have the choice between installing a lift on a more detailed set of stairs or on steps that are a straight run, opt for the less complicated and less expensive straight stair lift. Curved stair lifts can run as high as $15,000, making them a significantly higher investment.

Outdoor Stair Lift

This type of lift works like a straight stair lift as most exterior stairs don't include turns. However, they are built from more durable and weather proof materials so that they can withstand the rigors of being outdoors. Even though outdoor lifts often have shorter tracks, expect to pay around the same price as a straight stair lift due to the heavy-duty components used in its construction.

Paying for Your Lift

Many seniors are on fixed incomes, so it is often a struggle to pay for a big-ticket item like stair lifts even when they are necessary for independent living. Unfortunately, many insurance plans, including Medicare, don't cover stair lifts. However, some states as well as the VA offer waivers or grants that can help pay for a lift. Also, most manufacturers allow you to finance the purchase of a stair lift. Alternatively, some manufacturers sell used or refurbished models at a discounted rate.

Where to Buy

Several stair lift manufacturers have a longstanding reputation for making quality products. While this isn't an exhaustive list, you are unlikely to be disappointed with any of these brands.

  • Harmar - With a wide variety of mobility devices, this company shines for its outstanding selection including both straight and curved stair lifts.
  • Bruno - This family-owned company produces stair lifts in the U.S. and has 30 years of experience manufacturing mobility devices.
  • Stannah - If aesthetics are important to you, give this company a look. You can customize your lift to match your home's decor, and they offer rental programs if you need a short-term mobility solution.
  • Sterling - This company offers solid products without a lot of bells and whistles if budget is your biggest concern.

Freedom of movement is something that most people take for granted. While it's preferable to maintain mobility as you age, it's important to understand your options if you do find yourself unable to comfortably move around your home.

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