Many seniors prefer to stay in their homes for as long as possible. They want to live independently in the place they know and love. In 2018, a survey by the American Association of Retired Persons found that three-quarters of Americans want to age in place, and eldercare professionals have long recognized that living at home benefits senior’s mental and physical health. Unfortunately, stairs are often a significant challenge for seniors living at home, but it’s a problem a stair lift can help them to overcome.
A stair lift is a motorized chair or platform that carries people up and down the stairs in their home. They are typically attached to a rail that runs the length of the stair’s treads, but they may also be connected to a rail fixed to the wall. The rider sits on the chair or stands on the platform—often called the carriage—and activates the lift using controls housed on the carriage. Stair lifts for seniors move slowly, and they are fitted with safety features to stop the lift if it is obstructed.
What Types of Stair Lift Are Available?
Stair lifts are available in several different designs. The main factors that influence stair lift design are the size and shape of the stairs and the function of the carriage. The main types of stair lift include:
- Straight stair lifts can be installed on straight stairs or on stairs with multiple flights joined by landings. Straight stair lifts are the least expensive option and the fastest to install.
- Curved stair lifts are suitable for stairs that go around bends or corners. These are typically more expensive, more difficult to install, and the rail may have to be custom-made to fit the staircase’s design.
- Seated stair lifts feature a comfortable seat and may include a belt, harness, or seatbelt to prevent falls. Seated stair lifts often swivel at the top of the stairs so that it’s easier to stand up.
- Standing stair lifts are for people who prefer to stand or “perch” as they go upstairs. These don’t include a full chair but may have a higher-than-usual stool or seat to accommodate a semi-seated position from which it’s easier to stand.
- Platform stair lifts have an open or closed platform designed for wheelchairs. They are larger than standard chair lifts and are often big enough to accommodate two people.
As you can see, there are stair lifts for seniors with varying levels of physical ability and for both straight and curved stairs.
How Much Does a Stair Lift Cost?
Stair lift costs vary depending on the features, the design, and the shape of the stairs. Straight stair lifts are the least expensive, and you should expect to pay between $2,000 and $5,000 for a straight stair lift installed on a staircase with a standard step count.
Curved stair lifts are significantly more expensive. The rail may need to be custom manufactured for the staircase, although some curved stair lifts can be manufactured with off-the-shelf components. You should expect to pay between $8,000 and $14,000 for a curved stair lift, depending on the complexity of your stairs and the lift’s features.
Are Stair Lifts Covered by Medicare?
In general, stair lifts are not covered by Medicare. Stair lifts do not qualify in most circumstances because they are considered “a medical device used for self-help, personal comfort, or convenience.” As such, they are not categorized as medically necessary. The only circumstances in which a stair lift might be covered is when it’s prescribed by a doctor and purchased from a supplier who participates in Medicare. This typically only applies to a small number of expensive, high-end stair lifts.
How to Install a Stair Lift
Stair lifts should be installed by a professional. A homeowner may be able to install a simple straight stair lift, but it is safer if an experienced professional completes the structural and electrical work. If you do decide to install a stair lift yourself, be sure to check that doing so doesn’t void the stair lift’s warranty and that dealers are willing to service a self-installed stair lift.
Stair lifts are just one example of the equipment available to help seniors maintain an independent life in their own home. Others include walk-in baths and home hospital beds. To learn more about the benefits of an adjustable home hospital bed, phone or email our bed experts today.