Anyone know anything about buying a stair lift?
November 15, 2013 9:42 AM   Subscribe

So, I'm getting progressively more disabled and looking at getting a stair lift. I have zero experience with stair lifts. Does anyone have any words of wisdom about buying one?

I've got a progressive neuromuscular problem that's eventually going to limit me to a wheelchair, but hasn't yet. That may even still be years away. (Here's hoping, huh?) But it's now gotten to the point where it's barely possible and highly unsafe for me to pull myself up a flight of stairs. I've got stairs. In fact, the bedroom and full bath are upstairs.

Now, the best answer would be to sell this place and move into something where everything's on one floor. But the place next door is a more attractive property than mine and it took two years and drastic price cuts to sell. Putting in a downstairs bath would be great, but there's no way to do that isn't going to be terribly expensive. A friend's parent had an actual elevator installed a few years back, but I don't think that's even structurally possible here. Which ;leaves me thinking about a stair lift, but I have no idea which ones are good and which ones are bad.

I can google "stair lifts" but the results are so polluted with SEO trickery that it's hard to feel like I'm getting a handle on it. And I'm dead certain that any market which primarily serves the disabled and the elderly is going to be a shark-infested one. So I thought someone here might have some experience and be able to suggest at least the brand that I ought to be looking for, questions I need to be asking, and so on.

If it matters, it's a standard L-shaped staircase with 6 or 7 stairs, a landing, and then 6 or seven stairs. I can stand up from sitting unassisted if it's a reasonably high seat, but not if it's a really low one. The house's wiring is crap, but it ought to still be possible to add another circuit if needed.

For the curious, anonymized because this condition doesn't currently effect my ability to do my job of and until it does, I don't want to have links between me and it lying around for my employer or coworkers to happen across.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
Can't help you, but I'd guess that the quality of the local dealer/installer/contractor is likely going to be as or more important than the specific equipment. Have you checked with local offices for the aging (in the U.S., search for your state and "aging") or with local branches of the association for your (or related) diseases? For example, this page lets you find your state chapter of the MS Society. Good luck.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 9:55 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

My mother- and father-in-law became increasingly unable to deal with stairs in the last year or so of their life, so the family had two Simplicity 950 stair lifts installed in... one from the basement to the first floor, which they rented, and one from the first floor to the second floor, which they bought. The cost to buy was about $3000, but you can rent one for $100 for a month. Where are you located? My in-laws lived in Cranford, NJ and the family is looking to sell the stair lift they purchased.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:57 AM on November 15, 2013

I operated a stair lift at a meeting hall for some time. It was one of those ones where the chair part needs to be anchored to the end with the battery in order to charge and it was a supreme pain in the ass (stairmaster? I don't even recall) so I'd just make sure that you're getting one that plugs into your home wiring and don't deal with an annoying battery, key, or anything else. The people I've known who have used these were a mix is wheelchair users and other people with mobility problems. Ours did not go around a corner but I don't think that's an issue. At the point at which, if it comes, that you have a wheelchair, you can just have a small upstairs wheelchair and a downstairs/outside one, so no need to lug the wheelchair up/down stairs. Your local assistive technology folks should be a good place to get started, and will probably be helpful for other questions/info you need as your disease progresses. Your public library should be able to put you in touch with whoever does that in your area. You might also want to call your health insurance because there might be ways to have all or part of the costs covered.
posted by jessamyn at 10:14 AM on November 15, 2013

I don't have any feedback on the installation, but I've worked on residential projects where Acme Elevators have been specified, but only for elevators, not stair lifts. They have an assortment of different options (chair lifts, stair lifts, residential elevators) so you can see which one actually works best for you. As Mr.Know-it-some mentions, a lot of your experience will depend on the local rep, and I think with products like Acme, it's usually someone who is their vendor as well as a vendor for a bunch of other brands instead of one-brand commercial shop like Otis or Thyssen would be.

Otherwise, I think you may want to at least investigate your options other than a stair lift, since you admit that that will probably be a temporary (however long-term) solution. I don't think your concerns about structural integrity for an actual elevator are necessarily valid, but that will depend on the configuration of your house. If you have a two-story exterior wall anyplace, it wouldn't be all that difficult to just put the elevator on the outside of the house there and blow a door through the wall. Also, putting a bathroom (or expanding an existing one) on the first floor may not be a huge issue if you have a basement or crawlspace, but you can probably count it out if you're slab on grade.
posted by LionIndex at 10:23 AM on November 15, 2013

Ours did not go around a corner but I don't think that's an issue.

Forgot to mention - stair lifts can go around corners, but they'll have a certain minimum radius which may interfere with the use of your stair otherwise.
posted by LionIndex at 10:24 AM on November 15, 2013

Yes, you want to start developing a relationship with a mobility shop in your area; they'll install and you'd call them for maintenance.

You may be able to get tax credits for some kinds of accessibility renovation costs, worth looking into.

If you have a stairs-around-corners situation, one possible solution is two separate straight shorter-run stair-chairs, and you would either take a step or find another way to transfer between them. (Transfer board if they are close, or you could place a table on the landing that is the right height and scoot across its top)
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:31 AM on November 15, 2013

And for your standing issue - there are chairs and bedframes that can raise up to make it easier for you to stand up.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:34 AM on November 15, 2013

Also if you want to update with your location, people may have rec's for mobility vendors/shops.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:44 AM on November 15, 2013

FWIW, I should add that the Simplicity 950 units used by my in-laws never gave them a lick of trouble.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:53 PM on November 15, 2013

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