Many adult children are exploring home renovation options and mobility aids to provide aging-in-place flexibility for their aging parents. Staircases are one key obstacle that may hinder independent living in their seniors’ own home or in the home of a family caregiver.
If climbing stairs has become a hindrance or potential fall risk, an electric stair lift may provide a viable alternative. The purchase of a stair lift is a major investment and requires a bit of research, planning, and an assessment of your family needs. Here’s a few tips to get started:
- Will it fit? Mobility aids such as stair lifts can be a boon – but not if there’s no room for them! If you have an especially narrow staircase, the chair may take up more room than is practical. Before you start shopping, take all the pertinent measurements of your staircase so that you can determine just how much room you can afford to allocate to a stair lift. Remember that although the track for the lift may not take up a great deal of width, the seat itself may. Make sure that not only you can get around the seat, but that large equipment, such as a vacuum cleaner, will also fit around the lift. Bring photographs of your staircase with you when you go to look at potential lifts; these can help a salesman get a better idea of what might be needed for your particular space.
- Will Dad fit? If possible, the person who will be using the lift should go with you to pick out possible models. This is beneficial for two reasons: (1) he or she can select a model that provides the most comfort, and (2) the sales representative will be able to assess height and weight requirements. If the ultimate user cannot physically accompany you, bring records of his or her height and weight, as well as measurements such as waist, leg length, and torso length.
- Watch out for curves. Straight tracks are generally less expensive and easier to install. If your staircase curves or bends, this will likely to add to the cost.
- Find the power. Most stair lifts are run by electricity. You will need to determine whether you can use a lift that plugs into the wall or whether you will need to install special wiring. Also consider whether you need to purchase a battery back-up in case of a power outage.
- Safety first. Ask what safety features are part of the package. Some stair lifts have seats that swivel, which can make getting in and out easier; however, such seats need to have locking mechanisms so they don’t swivel while the lift is operating.
Mobility aids can make a big difference for seniors with mobility issues. Weigh the pros and cons before investing in a stair lift so that you make the best decision possible.