When you are caring for elderly relatives, you always walk a fine line between helping them lead an independent life at home and deciding whether, in fact, it is time to consider residential care.
Which is why I am all for anything that will make life a little easier for the elderly and the less mobile to keep them in the home they love and surrounded by all that is familiar and dear.
Many of the family homes we left, however, are two storey and traditionally designed so that the sleeping quarters and bathrooms are upstairs.
In an ideal world, of course, we would all have the funds to convert a downstairs room into a bedroom, together with ensuite washing facilities but few of us have that luxury.
A compromise is to get a stairlift so that you can get upstairs quickly, safely and without necessarily having to rely on a carer. In fact I have even seen people install them for a pet pooch who struggles with mobility!
If you’re like me, though, you’ll have a few key questions to be answered.
- How much should you expect to spend?
- Which type of stairlift should you choose?
- Are stairlifts easy to install?
- How much maintenance does a stairlift need?
- Will your loved one need assistance to use them?
Let’s look at each.
There are, surprisingly, quite a few types of stairlift and the price varies according to the type you choose and your installation requirements. As a guide, a basic stairlift for a staircase with 13 steps is around £2,000 brand new.
Bear in mind that you may be able to apply for a local authority grant called a Disabled Facilities Grant and if you are eligible, your local council may be able to help towards the cost of installing your stairlift and any other home adaptations required. You may also be exempt from paying VAT. Check with your council first would be my advice.
Types of stairlift
You can choose from the following types of stairlift
- seated stairlifts
- perch stairlifts which have an adapted seat to give extra support for those who find sitting uncomfortable
- straight stairlifts which can be seated or standing
- curved stairlifts for curved bannisters
- outdoor stairlifts which come with a waterproof cover
- transfer platforms straight stairlifts (where you have a landing breaking the staircase)
Before you choose one you need to consider the mobility of the user and it might be a good idea to consult an Occupational Therapist before making a decision.
Are stairlifts easy to install?
A standard straight stairlift can be installed in as little as 2 hours. You’ll have a visit from a surveyor to assess exactly what is needed and they will look at things like
- the width of your staircase and whether there are obstructions such as a radiator
- can you bend your knees and travel sitting down or would a standing stairlift be better?
- if you do choose a standing stairlift, will there be enough headroom?
- do you have the manual dexterity to operate the remote control or would you need something like a joystick or toggle?
Make sure you choose a reliable provider and don’t be pressurised into buying anything that isn’t right for you or your loved one.
You should be given a written quotation which includes installation. Bear in mind, also, that you don’t necessarily need a brand new stairlift. A reconditioned one may do just fine and it will be cheaper too.
Brand new stairlifts should be serviced once every 12 months but if you have a reconditioned model, it is advisable to have them serviced every 6 months, especially if the stairlift is in daily use.
In order to keep your stairlift in tip-top condition, you should adhere to some basic common-sense rules such as keeping the rails clear of obstructions, keeping children away from them and cleaning rails with a dry cloth once a week.
You’ll also need to ensure you don’t exceed the weight limit for your particular type of stairlift.
Helping your loved one to use them
For lots of us, this last point is actually the most important because unless your loved one is fully on board (to use a pun!) your stairlift may stay unused and unloved.
As with any aspect of caring for a loved one or elderly relative, communication is key to ensure that they like the idea and will be willing to use the mobility aid.
Choosing the right company and taking the time to ask questions and choose the right stairlift for your relative is crucial. This is not a ‘rush purchase’ but it is one that could dramatically improve your loved one’s life at home and relieve them from spending all day staring at the same four walls.
And for that reason alone, a stairlift is well worth considering.