If you’re considering having a stairlift installed then there are some important considerations that you should make before going ahead. A stairlift can be a liberating addition to your home but it is also a major investment and you should be absolutely sure that it is the right choice for you. Before going ahead, you really need to think about how often you need to go upstairs and whether making your downstairs space more liveable a better and cheaper solution that will work over the long term.

If you have very little mobility, then a stairlift may not be the right choice for you. Stairlifts are designed for people who can walk for short distances but have trouble getting up and down the stairs. They are not appropriate for people who have difficulty getting around downstairs or who cannot get around on foot over short distances because to use one. That means that if you have a progressive disability then a stairlift might not be the right choice. But if your mobility problem is stable - for instance a managed heart condition, arthritis, you’ve suffered a stroke or are recovering from major surgery - then a stairlift could transform your life.

You may be able to get around the ground floor but are you able to bend your knees. Most stairlifts need the user to be able to sit down so if you can’t bend your knees then you could have difficulty using one. There are stairlifts which the user can stand on but these are not usually recommended. An engineer or sales representative will be able to advise on whether your staircase has enough height clearance for one of these specialist stairlifts.

The cost of the stairlift itself might not be the only outlay that you’ll face should you decide to go ahead. There might be access issues for installing or using the stairlift like a difficult angle at either the top or the bottom of the stairs, an awkwardly sited radiator that might block your access to the seat itself or you might have to have alterations to the stairs themselves including moving or altering the bannisters.

A standard stairlift needs a staircase that is at least 70cm wide although you can get special stairlifts for narrower flights of stairs. Your staircase needs to have a certain structural strength because, contrary to received wisdom, the stairlift track is fixed to the flight of stairs, not the wall. Don’t assume that it will be installed on a particular side, because a stairlift can go on either left or right and the engineer will be able to advise on this both from a engineering perspective and for your convenience. The power source is a consideration

If you’re thinking about any home improvements or redecorating then it’s good advice to have these done before a stairlift is installed. It won’t be easy or inexpensive to replace a staircase carpet after a stairlift has been has been fixed.

You’ll need to be able to use the stairlift’s controls. These are usually push buttons but a joystick or a toggle can be installed instead. The control can be on either the left or right hand side of the armrest depending on the user’s preference. If you have a carer, then it’s possible for one or more remote controls to be installed so that somebody else can help you to use the stairlift. There are also stairlifts that come with a sound alarm so that users with vision impairment know when the lift is either at the top or the bottom of the stairs.

Finally, if you have enormous difficulty getting to and from the stairs or if you can’t get upstairs to use the bathroom or toilet or to sleep, you might be able to claim a disabled facilities grant (DFG) to help fund a stair lift installation. To apply, you must meet social care eligibility criteria and agree to an assessment by the occupational therapy service.

This might be part of a wider package of care and support provided by the local authority. Mobility aids and adaptations under £1000 must be provided free of charge by the local authority and more expensive adaptations are means tested under the Disabled Facilities Grant system.

By Help Mobility Team

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