Most stair lifts available today also have seats, armrests and footplates that fold up out of the way, and swivel seats that make getting into and out of the chair easier. They also come with standard safety features like seatbelts, breaking systems and footrest sensors, push-button or rocker-switch controls located on the armrest for easy operation, and “call send” controls which allow you to call or send the unit to the other end of the stairs. Make sure the lift you choose has all these features.
Depending on the company, you may also 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” book.