Whether it is age creeping up, an illness, an unfortunate accident or a physical disability that affects your mobility, it may be that it is time to consider a stairlift. It is certainly cheaper than moving in to a bungalow, but is it actually the way to go?
Who needs one?
Stairlifts can be an invaluable mobility aid but should be carefully considered as they can require significant modifications to your home and may not always be the right tool for you.
The need for one is often a result of a forced situation and out of our control. No one wants to be restricted and confined within their own home, which is why they are one of the most common mobility aids in the home.
People nowadays are living longer, so when it comes to age and the inevitable decline in ability to move like we did when we were 20, they are often installed as a preventative measure, proactively maintaining independence against future accidents.
Stairlifts are key to independent living ? if struggling to access all floors in your home is a problem, then installing a stairlift could be what you need.
There are two types of stairlifts available that should most homes ? straight and curved. Obviously which one of these you chose is dependent on whether your stairs are straight or curved. There is also the option for reconditioned stairlifts but these are really only for straight stairs. The curved ones tend to be more bespoke and unlikely to suit all curved stairways.
Straight staircase stairlifts are relatively straightforward to install as they run along a straight rail on the stairs (it is not often you find one that fixes to the wall) and can come with a fixed, foldable or swivel seat. It?s no surprise that these simpler stairlifts are cheaper than the curved ones.
As you?d expect, the curved stairlift tracks turn corners and are fixed to a curved rail that follows the shape of your staircase. One thing to consider, if your house has two consecutive straight staircases joined by a landing, is a curved stairlift. This would provide you with a seamless journey up both sets of stairs.
The majority of stairlifts are connected to the mains but are still battery powered. They require the chair to be parked at the docking point to receive a trickle charge from the mains.
Operating these stairlifts is very simple ? the control is often a button for up and one for down or, sometimes, a joystick that is moved left or right. There is also an immobiliser key which is extremely handy if you have children visiting.
Before you take the plunge and order your stairlift, take a look at your staircase and consider the width. Is it too narrow to fit a stairlift and still allow people to pass by on foot? Are there doors at the top that could become obstructed? Getting a trusted supplier to visit and assess the suitability is a must, however be sure they have your needs in mind and not their commission. Remember, you are the customer and the stairlift is something you?ll be using, not them.
Once you have decided on your stairlift, it should take no longer than a day to install, unless you?ve opted for an elaborate curved one that goes up multiple flights. The majority of stair lift rails fit to the stairs rather than the wall, therefore no structural alterations to your home should be required.
As I mentioned before, make sure any stairlift company has your needs in mind. It?s always best to do your homework on suppliers.
Speak with an occupational therapist ? Their advice might just save you a lot of time and money.
Try before you buy ? If possible try some out and ask around for independent advice. Nothing worse than having something like this installed only to find out it?s not what you though it would be.
Check your stairlift company ? Make sure they are linked to the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA). The BHTA?s code of practice aims to combat inappropriate selling tactics.
Prepare ? Consider the questions you want to ask the stairlift company representative when they visit. Maybe consider having a family member or a friend present to support you.
Agree a price ? As previously mentioned the price will depend a lot on whether your stairlift is straight or curved but you also need to consider aftercare costs. Having a plan that covers servicing, maintenance and emergency call outs is extremely helpful. You wouldn?t want to breakdown halfway up the stairs or incur a larger repair bill because you didn?t have a plan in place.
Should you encounter a bad experience when obtaining quotes or purchasing your stairlift, you can, in the first instance complain to the stairlift company directly via their formal complaints procedure. If they are unable to help and resolve the problems you can submit a written complaint to the BHTA by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, assuming they are a BHTA member. If not, then your only option is to contact Citizens Advice.
With an increased feeling of mobility around the home you have not only improved your own quality of life but given relief to the many volunteer carers who can now assist others.