Most U.S houses are built over two or more floors. For non-disabled people, that’s not a problem, but stairs are one of the biggest challenges new wheelchair users face. Of the 3 million wheelchair users in the U.S., over half are 65 or older. Many seniors reading this post will have experienced the upsetting realization that declining physical abilities may one day force them to leave a home of many years because they can no longer climb the stairs.
A chairlift—also known as a wheelchair lift or a platform lift—can help seniors and other wheelchair or mobility aid users live an independent life in the comfortable and familiar environment of their own home.
What is a Wheelchair Lift?
A wheelchair lift is a motorized platform that raises or lowers a wheelchair and its user between landings at different heights. Wheelchair lifts typically feature a large platform, which may be enclosed on two or three sides. If the lift travels a distance of more than 6 feet, it must also be fitted with a door or gate on the upper and lower landings.
Wheelchair users maneuver up a ramp onto the platform and operate the lift via controls built into the carriage. Residential wheelchair lifts may be fitted into an internal stairwell, but they are also used outside to help wheelchair users bypass steps up to the house’s door.
Wheelchair lifts, unlike stairlifts, are often installed within a vertical lift way. The lift carries the occupant vertically between landings instead of following the stairway’s path, although incline wheelchair lifts are also available. Wheelchair lifts are similar in design to regular elevators, but they are significantly less expensive to install because they don’t need a dedicated elevator shaft or space for the bulky equipment used in residential and commercial elevators.
Chairlifts, Stairlifts, and Platform Lifts: What’s the Difference?
The terms stairlift, chairlift, and platform lift can be confusing because manufacturers, retailers, and educational resources may use the same term for different types of lift, making it difficult to search for products online.
- Chairlifts are wheelchair lifts, as we described in the previous section. However, you will find that chairlift is sometimes used as a synonym for stairlift.
- Stairlifts are usually designed for people who can sit or stand. They are used by people who find stairs difficult or dangerous, but they are not suitable if you use a wheelchair to move around your home.
- Platforms lift is a common industry term for a wheelchair lift. They are called platform lifts for the obvious reason—they feature a platform. But also because you can use them with mobility aids that aren’t wheelchairs, such as mobility scooters.
Finally, chairlifts are not the same thing as lift chairs. Lift chairs are motorized armchairs that can lift the occupant from a sitting to a standing position. Like a home hospital bed, all of the equipment we’ve discussed can improve the quality of life for seniors and people with mobility issues, but understanding the correct terminology will help you find the best equipment for your circumstances.
Vertical Platform Lifts vs. Inclined Platform Lifts
Platform lifts—what we have been calling chairlifts or wheelchair lifts—are available in two types.
- Vertical stairlifts move straight up and down, directly between floors.
- Inclined stairlifts don’t move straight up and down. Instead, they follow an inclined or diagonal path, moving forward and backward as well as up and down. Inclined stairlifts are usually fitted to follow a flight of stairs.
Vertical and inclined stairlifts do the same job, but some homes are only suitable for one or the other. You may find it useful to talk to a platform lift engineer or manufacturers about which type is suitable for your home.
How Much Does a Chairlift for Stairs Cost?
Platform lifts vary enormously in price depending on the manufacturer, features, weight capacity, the lift way’s height, and where the lift will be placed—outdoor platform lifts are generally more expensive than an equivalent indoor lift.
As a general guide, you can expect to pay around $5,000 for the hardware and installation of a basic vertical platform lift. Inclined platform lifts are generally less expensive, costing between $2,000 and $5,000 for a straight flight of stairs. However, cost rise quickly for curved stairs, especially if it requires custom parts. Installation can add further costs, and you should budget somewhere between $1,000 and $5,000 for a professional installation, depending on the complexity.
If the cost of a new wheelchair lift is beyond your means, you may want to consider a refurbished lift or a rented lift.
Does Medicare Pay for Wheelchair Lifts?
Medicare does not pay for wheelchair lifts. In limited circumstances, Medicare Advantage may pay towards the cost of a chairlift, but you should expect to pay the full cost for the most part.
Wheelchair lifts are just one example of the equipment available to help seniors maintain an independent life in their own homes. Others include walk-in baths, stairlifts, and home hospital beds. To learn more about the benefits of an adjustable home hospital bed, phone or email our bed experts today.