This article provides information about choosing the right type of stairlift for your requirements.
If you are having problems climbing up and down stairs, then going to bed and getting up in the morning can be hard work. Perhaps you will decide to sleep downstairs instead.
Once it has become too difficult to climb the stairs, you might decide that the house will need to be rearranged so that there is a bedroom and a bathroom downstairs, or you will decide to move to a bungalow with no stairs to climb.
Another option is a stairlift. Stairlifts can provide a great deal of freedom and independence, and can mean that there's no need to move house to a bungalow, or build an extension, or convert other rooms in the house. A stairlift can be fitted quickly and easily in a few hours so that the inconvenience is minimal, and you can regain the use of all the rooms in the house.
Stair lifts are available in different lengths to fit different staircases. When you decide to have a stairlift fitted, a qualified person will visit the house to measure the length and angle of the stairs, and check that there is sufficient space for the stairlift at the bottom and top of the stairs. The questions asked should cover such subjects as whether you are left or right handed, whether you can lift your feet to step height, whether you have difficulties getting out of a chair at normal height, and the nature of the problem causing problems getting up and downstairs. Depending on the style of the stairlift and house, any doors and power points will be taken into consideration.
If there is a doorway at the bottom of the stairs, a standard track would obstruct the doorway, and be a hazard. A hinged track resolves this problem. With a manual hinged track, the stairlift is sent back up the staircase, and then the hinged track has to be folded back by hand. An automatic hinged track is folded back automatically using the remote control.
Modern stairlifts are quiet, reliable and are controlled by an easy to use joystick. This joystick can be on either armrest, to suit the user's needs, depending on the make and model of stairlift. At least one remote control handset is usually provided with the stairlift, so that the stairlift can be called from either the top or the bottom of the stairs, and is ideal if there are two or more users.
The seat and footrest are comfortable, and help to provide a smooth ride. Stairlifts have a soft start and stop design, so that there is no jolt as the stairlift starts and stops. The seat will swivel and lock into place to aid getting on and off the stairlift. Stairlifts have park points which are usually at each end of the track and possibly in the middle if it is a curved track. The stairlift recharges the battery when it is on the park points, so that the stairlift is always charged and ready to use. If the stairlift is parked somewhere other than a park point, the stairlift will beep so that the user knows to park it properly.
In the event of a power cut, the built in battery back up system will ensure that the user is never stuck at the top or bottom of the stairs. This battery backup is usually enough for approximately ten journeys. The stairlift is likely to have a self diagnostic display, so that in the unlikely event of a malfunction, the stairlift engineer can remedy the fault quickly and easily, usually over the phone. This method also avoids having to wait for an engineer to visit the house, leaving the stairlift out of action for a while.
With a sit and stand stairlift, you can choose whether to sit on the seat and travel up and down stairs normally, or stand up to go up and down stairs. The option to stand might be beneficial to those who have problems bending their knees, or when there might be two or more users with different needs. If the width of the stairs means that a traditional stairlift isn't suitable, or the user's legs will not allow the user to sit down properly, then a perch stairlift might be more suitable. A perch lift allows the user to safely perch on the stairlift and has the same safety features. The stairlift seat and footrest will usually fold away, and a perch seat is very narrow, so that the stairlift is not intrusive for other people climbing the stairs.
Modern safety features mean that the stairlift won't operate if the carriage hits an obstruction on the stairs, or if the seat, footrest or armrests aren't in the correct positions, and will always stop when it reaches the top and bottom of the stairs. A lockable isolation switch prevents unauthorised use of the stairlift, which can be used when children are visiting for example.
It is important to check that the stairlift has the latest safety and technology features. For example without an overspeed governor, (OSG), the stairlift could rapidly descend the stairs in the event of a component or system failure. Other safety features include a swivel seat, so that you can get on and off safely, and DC power. DC power means there is no trailing mains cable, and so no danger of an electric shock.
Outdoor stairlifts are also available to overcome steps up to the front door or to the garden for example. As well as being especially designed and suitable for outdoor use, the majority of outdoor stairlifts are very similar to indoor stairlifts. They will also be as quiet and comfortable as their indoor counterparts, and provide the same safety features and convenience.
A stair lift for a curved staircase will often be very expensive, and it will usually be much cheaper, where possible, to have two straight stairlifts and some way of transferring between the two, rather than a curved stairlift.
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