One of the biggest impediments seniors face to their desire for aging in place is owning a home that’s not suited for it. And for many, the biggest problem is a simple set of stairs.
Multi-story homes have their appeal for the young, but as you age those stairs start to become an ever larger problem, especially for seniors whose room is located on the second floor.
The easiest solution to a problem set of stairs–although it’s not cheap – is to purchase a stair lift.
Do You Need a Stair Lift?
Before you decide a stair lift’s for you and write a sizeable check to add one to your home, stop and consider if it’s really something you need.
There are a few questions to ask yourself to start:
- Are you 100% certain you want to age in place? A stair lift is a big expense and might be worth it if you’ll be in your home for the long haul, but if you end up moving into an assisted living facility within a couple of years anyway, it won’t feel like you got your money’s worth.
- Would it make more sense to move to a one-story home or apartment? For many seniors, a large house that made sense when your whole family was living there becomes too much as you get older and your kids move out. A smaller home or apartment would be less maintenance, less work to clean, and take care of the problem of stairs.
- Can you make do moving your living quarters downstairs? If there’s enough room in the bottom story of your house for you to comfortably live there, then call in your family or hire some help to move everything you need downstairs. You can get help from friends or someone you hire in making sure the top story remains clean and maintained without having to go back and forth up there yourself. Check out these 15 other home modifications to make aging-in-place safe.
- Does it make more financial sense to rent one instead? You don’t have to buy a stair lift outright in order to have one installed, you can actually find companies that will rent them out month by month. Keep in mind, that if you end up using one for the long term, this can quickly add up to more than the cost of buying one. But if you’re not sure yet about whether or not you want to stay in the house long term and need a stop gap solution, renting may make more sense than buying.
If your answer to these questions suggests you do need a stair lift, then the next step is figuring out which one to buy.
How to Select a Good Stair Lift
If you are going to make an investment that’s as expensive as a stair lift, you want to make sure you make the best possible choice for you and your home. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Understand the different types of stair lifts.
While the way they work is pretty similar, there are a few main types of stair lifts to choose between in your search:
- Seated stair lifts – These are the most popular option and recommended for anyone who’s most comfortable sitting (or needs to sit for health reasons).
- Standing stair lifts – If you aren’t comfortable sitting or find the seats of the stair lifts you’ve encountered uncomfortable, a standing stair lift may make more sense. These are often more narrow than seated stair lifts so may work better for you if your stairs aren’t very wide.
- Straight stair lift – These work for any set of stairs that go straight up and are more affordable than curved stair lifts.
- Curved stair lift – If your stairs include bends or curves, then you’ll need to invest in a curved stair lift that will cost extra.
- Outdoor stair lift – If you have outdoor stairs you’re struggling with as well as (or instead of) indoor stairs, then an outdoor stair lift designed to better withstand the elements is what you need.
Once you know your options, you should have a fairly easy time narrowing down which one is right for you.
- Consider different features available.
Some stair lifts come with handy features you may want to consider. A few you’re likely to come across are:
- Remote controls – These are useful if you find yourself on a different floor than the stair lift (for example if the home has two people who use it), or if you want to be able to easily turn it off to conserve power.
- Call–send stations – Even without a remote control, you can get a stair lift from one floor to another with call-send stations installed on each floor.
- Seat belt – A seat belt can make you feel safer as you move up and down.
- Folding seat – If there are people in the home who will need to use the stairs without using the stair lift, then the ability to fold it up toward the wall so it’s easier for someone to go around it will come in handy.
- Swivel seats – Being able to swivel the seat makes it easier to get in and out of the chair lift
If you know you’ll be happier with a stair lift that includes a specific feature, it’s worth doing some browsing to find one that will satisfy your needs or preferences.
- Measure your available space.
Wouldn’t you hate to go to the trouble of buying a stair lift, only to find it didn’t fit on the stairs in your home? Long before you settle on a particular stair lift, measure your stairs. If your stairs are more narrow than average, then you’ll have to be especially careful to find a stair lift that will work in the space.
- Ask for recommendations.
Before deciding on a particular brand or model, ask around and see if anyone you know has experience with stair lifts. Talk to friends, family members, your doctor and anyone else you can think of who might be able to point you in the right direction. A recommendation from someone you know can always tell you more about how likely you are to be happy with a stair lift than anything a salesman or commercial will.
- Look at reviews.
The second best thing to recommendations from someone you know is unbiased reviews online. Do some research to see what people have to say about the main models you’re considering. This is the best way to get an early warning of common issues a stair lift might have, or to confirm your impression that one’s a good deal.
- Get quotes from multiple companies.
Even if you primarily have your eye on a particular stair lift, talk to a few different brands before making a decision. The only way to find out if the pricing of one company is reasonable is to see how it compares to others. You’re much more likely to get a good deal if you take the time to consider a few different options.
- Look into payment options.
While Medicare probably won’t help you with the costs of a stair lift, there are some other options that you may be able to turn to. If you’re eligible for Medicaid, in some cases you could be able to get help funding the purchase. If you or your spouse is a veteran, then there are VA benefits like the Aid and Attendance benefit that may help. And most stair lift companies will offer financing options, so you don’t have to pay the whole amount upfront in order to get one installed.
Before you spend that money, do take the time to really consider if a stair lift is the solution you most need. If you need a level of care that requires assisted living, then you’re only spending money to put off the solution you really need. Take some time to research the facilities in your area to get a fuller feel for your options before deciding for sure. You may find one that’s just right and saves you from an expensive purchase you don’t need.