How to choose a home stair lift

Savy Senior

editorial@sierrastarAugust 27, 2013 

Dear Savvy Senior,

My wife is having an increasingly difficult time going up and down the stairs in our house. We are interested in purchasing a stair lift, but aren't sure what to get or where to look. Can you help us?

— Need a Lift


Dear Need,

A good home stair lift is a wonderful solution for seniors with mobility issues who have trouble with steps. A stair lift will carry your wife up and down the stairs in a safe seated position, giving her easy access to the second story or basement level of your home. But with so many options available how do you choose one that best meets your needs and budget. Here are a few shopping tips along with some good companies that offer them.

Types of lifts

There are two basic types of stair lifts that are sold today: straight and curved. The type you need will depend upon the design of your staircase.

A straight stair lift is one that travels in a straight line up a flight of stairs uninterrupted by landings, bends or curves, and costs between $3,000 and $5,000 installed. Curved lifts, however, are much more elaborate and will go around corners, bends and changes in direction. Curved lifts are also much more expensive typically running between $10,000 and $15,000 or more depending on the complexity of the installation.

You also need to know that all stair lifts mount to the stair treads, not to the wall, so they are very sturdy and can be installed in almost any home.

Depending on the company, you may have the option of choosing between an electric (AC) and a battery powered (DC) stair lift. Battery powered units charge at the base station (some recharge anywhere on the track) are quieter, smoother and better than electric lifts, and will work even if there's a power failure in the home.

Where to shop

While there are many companies that make, sell and install stair lifts, the most respected in the industry are Bruno bruno.com, (866) 345-7537) and Stannah stannahstairlifts.com, (800) 877-8247), followed by Harmar harmar.com, (800) 833-0478) and Sterling handicare.com, (866) 276-5438).

Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover stair lifts, but many states offer Medicaid waivers that will pay for lifts to those that qualify, and the VA offers cash grants to veterans with disabilities for home safety improvements.

To save some money, you may want to consider purchasing a used or refurbished model. Or, if you need a stair lift for only a short period of time, consider renting one. Most companies offer these options, and many offer financing programs too.

To get started, contact some stair lift companies who will put you in touch with a dealer in your area. All dealers provide free in-home assessments and estimates, and can help you choose an appropriate lift.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, Ok., 73070, or visit savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of "The Savvy Senior."

To get started, contact some stair lift companies who will put you in touch with a dealer in your area. All dealers provide free in-home assessments and estimates, and can help you choose an appropriate lift.

The Sierra Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service