If you have mobility problems that make walking up and down the stairs difficult and unsafe, a residential stair lift can help you keep your independence and improve the quality of your life. However, the purchase and installation of a stair chair lift is a significant investment which requires getting information about key factors relating to the lift's features and cost.
Different Model Types
A straight stair chair lift is for use on a straight flight of stairs without curves or landings. Curved lifts, which are more expensive, are designed to go around corners or curves in the stairway. They cost more because the lifts often need to be custom made and are more complicated to install.
Other types of stair lifts you can buy include outdoor lifts for outdoor steps and heavy-duty stair lifts that are designed with wider seats, seat heights that can be raised, and larger lifting capacities. Heavy-duty models cost more. If you have a condition, such as arthritis, that makes it difficult to bend your knees, standing stair lifts also are available.
Most stair lifts are designed with armrests and foot plates that fold up, making room for other people who use the stairs. Swivel seats make it easier to get in and out of the chair. Both electric and battery-powered stair lifts are available. Battery-operated lifts tend to be quieter and ride smoother than electric stair lifts. Another advantage is you can operate the chair even if you lose electrical service in your home during a storm or other power outage.
Safety features to look for with a stair chair lift include:
Seat belt or over-shoulder harness
Mechanical braking system
Footrest sensors that stop the lift if obstacles on the stairs get in the way
Mechanism that prevents the chair from operating until it's in the proper position for riding
Help With the Cost
Although Medicare does not pay for stair lifts, the Medicaid programs in some states offer waivers that will pay for a lift if you meet the eligibility criteria. If you are a veteran with a disability, you may qualify for a cash grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs to help pay for a stair lift. Under the Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) grant, veterans whose disabilities are service-related must complete VA Form 10-0103 for the VA to determine their eligibility. Veterans whose disabilities are not connected to the service may still qualify for financial assistance but for a lesser amount of reimbursement.
You can also contact your local aging office or the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to find out if you qualify for any grants that may be available in your area to help individuals make home modifications. If you don't qualify for any type of assistance and need to pay for a stair lift yourself, options that help make the cost more affordable include:
Renting a stair lift (especially if you only need it temporarily)
Buying a used or refurbished stair lift (although a new stair lift generally offers a longer warranty)
Financing a stair lift through a company that sells them, such as All-Star Lifts
Although coverage for medical equipment varies among insurers, some health plans will cover part of the costs associated with buying and installing a stair lift. However, the costs for maintenance service and repairs come out of your pocket.
When you submit a claim, the insurance company will require that you provide a statement from a medical professional explaining your medical condition and how you can benefit from a stair lift. If you have long-term care insurance, your policy may help pay for a stair lift.