Should You Get A Stairlift? A Starter Guide To Stairlifts

This article aims to educate you on whether or not you should get a stairlift installed. Including, the pros and cons, who a stairlift is for, why buy a stairlift, and finally, addressing any safety concerns you might have.

What is A Stairlift?

A stairlift is a motorised chair that will travel along a rail up a staircase at a slow speed. Most stairlifts have certain features that come as standard such as a footplate for the passenger to rest their feet on, the ability to swivel the chair to make getting on and off easier, a safety belt, a remote control so that the passenger can control the direction of travel, a backup battery in case the main power fails.

There are other features some stairlifts may have such as a longer life battery, the ability to hold more weight, a folding rail to save space, and two remotes so the chair can be controlled by the passenger or an assistant.

Stairlifts are used by a wide range of people to travel to the top of a staircase and back down again. Usually installed in domestic settings a person will use a stairlift to get to the bathroom or a bedroom. They’re a good option for many elderly or disabled people.

How Do Stairlifts Work?

A stairlift is a very simple concept – a rail attached to the staircase treads has a chair attached to it and is mechanically lifted and lowered down the rail using electricity. The chair doesn’t travel fast for safety reasons and to provide the passenger with a more comfortable ride.

Did you know?

Although the first commercially available stairlifts were sold in the 1930s, there is evidence that King Henry VIII used an early type of stairlift! Powered by servants of course and not electricity. 

Many modern stairlifts are also fitted with a battery as a backup source of power in case the mains electricity is temporarily stopped.

How Are Stairlifts Fitted?

Fitting a stairlift is a simple job for correctly qualified people! When you buy a stairlift from Senior Stairlifts, we fit the stairlift, so you don’t need to worry about installation. However, you may still have a few questions about installation.

These are the two questions we get asked most often:

  • How long will it take to fit?
  • Will you drill into the walls?

Fitting a stairlift can be done in a matter of hours. We allocate a full day for fitting as each job is different, but the process is very fast. There is also only a very minimal amount of mess and disruption, and we always leave you home tidy after we have finished.

Stairlift rails are fitted to tread on your staircase and not the wall – although they do sometimes look as though they’re fitted to the wall. We simply drill into your staircase and fit brackets to hold the rail leaving your walls clean and tidy.

Who Needs A Stairlift?

A stairlift can be used by anyone who experiences difficulties when climbing a staircase at home or those who are completely unable to climb the stairs.  

They are used most often by elderly people who will have a stairlift fitted when the stairs become too much of a task. There are also many medical reasons why a stairlift may be needed ranging from chest and breathing issues to people who have suffered a stroke. Arthritis which causes painful inflamed joints can also be a motivator for getting a stairlift.

People who have a high risk of falling may also benefit from having a stairlift installed. The Royal College Of Nurses list the following as the most likely cause of falls in older people:

  • having a history of falls
  • muscle weakness
  • poor balance
  • visual impairment
  • polypharmacy – and the use of certain medicines
  • environmental hazards and a number of specific conditions.

However, some of the conditions listed above are not just limited to older people and stairlifts are not only used by the elderly – but they are also helpful for anybody living with a disability that affects their ability to climb a staircase. Many disabilities can affect walking, balance, breathing, coordination, and safety. A stairlift can be considered as an option for many illnesses.

As many stairlifts can be controlled by the passenger or an assistant this offers greater flexibility for people who may not be able to operate a stairlift themselves – the second control will allow an assistant to operate the lift for them. For example, a person with Alzheimer’s or any other type of Dementia.

Why Get A Stairlift?

There are many reasons to get a stairlift, the reasons will differ from person to person.

The most obvious reason to get a stairlift is in cases where walking up a staircase is impossible or very unlikely. So this could be an older person with a progressive illness or someone who uses a wheelchair full time and may struggle with stairs.

Stairlifts are also used by people who although mobile, may find the stairs too difficult – walking across a flat surface is very different to walking upstairs and impact the muscles and joints in a different way, which is why some elderly people may be ok with navigating around their home but only have issues with the stairs.

Installing a stairlift can also help reduce the risk of falls as it eliminates the risk of the staircase somewhat. Although there are no specific statistics for people falling down staircases, elderly people have a higher risk of falling. This can be caused by a specific illness such as osteoporosis which makes people more prone to falling, or environmental factors – that is things around the home that pose a hazard, such as stairs. The NHS estimate that around 1 in 3 adults over 65 who live at home will have at least one fall a year, and about half of these will have more frequent falls.

In addition to all the above, one of the biggest reasons to get a stairlift is so that people can retain some sense of independence. Having a stairlift fitted can in some cases save a person from having to move out of their home.  In some cases, a person may have no other difficulty in their home, other than climbing the stairs. A stairlift also enables a person to independently take care of some of their own needs, visiting the toilet, for example.

Stairlift Assessment

People often wonder when the right time to buy a stairlift is or when they need one. Some people will independently decide they want to install a stairlift and make arrangements themselves without any external assessment.

For lots of people though, especially the elderly, they will usually have an assessment of their home and needs to be done by a qualified professional who will make recommendations on what aids and changes could be made to the home.

In the UK people are entitled to a free assessment through their local council and social services. An occupational therapist will visit the persons home and discuss what difficulties the individual is having and what could be done to the home to help ease these issues. In some cases, they will recommend a stairlift.

You can apply for a home assessment here.

Help Buying A Stairlift

Although local councils may provide cheaper aids for people having difficulties in their homes, extra funding will often need to be sought to buy a stairlift.

If you are looking to get help buying a stairlift, a home assessment is a good place to start. Afterwards, you can try these different options for funding:

For those who are not eligible for funding, there are some great value options to consider when buying a stairlift such as buying a reconditioned stairlift or renting a stairlift.

Pros/Cons & Alternatives

There aren’t that many cons when it comes to buying a stairlift aside from the cost and of course, a stairlift will be highly visible in the home which may not be appealing to some people. However, with slim stairlift models now available and rails that can be folded, most models are very unobtrusive. And besides, having to look at a stairlift is a small price to pay for the independence and freedom it can give a person.

Although there are a couple of alternatives available to stairlifts, they don’t really do the same thing as a stairlift does. There are aids to help people get up the stairs easier, but such as blocks that can be fitted to stair treads to make the step smaller, and walkers where a person will hold onto a bar that guides them up the stairs.

These options are completely unsuitable though for a person with limited mobility or issues with their balance or vision. There are also standing stairlifts available, but again, these are not suitable for anyone with balance issues or those who are unable to bear weight for long.

Are Stairlifts Safe?

Finally, one of the questions we often hear is how safe are stairlifts? It’s natural to be worried about something going wrong and injury occurring! Especially when you are trying to care for a loved one and want the best for them.

The good news is that stairlifts are extremely safe when used correctly. Many even come with safety features fitted as standard such as:

  • Safety harness to keep the passenger secure
  • A sensor that automatically stops the stairlift should an obstruction be detected
  • Two controls so the stairlift can be operated by a passenger or an assistant
  • A backup battery that can be used in the event of a power failure

There are also stairlifts available for heavier passengers should that be a concern.

When fitted by a professional and used correctly, there is no reason a stairlift should be a safety concern at all.

How To Buy A Stairlift

We hope you found this introductory guide to stairlifts helpful, and you will contact us should you have any more questions or want to book an appointment.

Getting a stairlift installed is a very quick process but we always carry out a free home assessment first, just to double-check the staircase is suitable for a stairlift and what type of stairlift you will need.

You can speak to a friendly member of the team by calling 0800 995 6019 or using our contact form.