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Choosing the Right Stair Lift
   According to the Home Safety Council, falls are the leading
cause of home injury deaths;
stairway falls are the most common
form of household falls.
   Families with two-story homes may have an elderly relative
residing with them; senior citizens may live independently in a
two-story residence and be reluctant to move for a variety of
reasons. Under any circumstance, seniors in two-story residences
may come to a point where they're challenged by vision difficulties,
balance issues, poor mobility, etc. Negotiating staircases may
simply become too risky for many seniors.
   Installing a chair lift can be the answer for two-story households
with elderly residents unable to use the stairway safely.
Technology, materials and home improvement advancements
have made private residence stair lifts much more accessible and
affordable. There
are several issues to keep in mind when
selecting a stair lift or residential elevator.
Staircase Design and Size
   Staircases are generally configured in three distinct designs:
Straight; Curved; or L-Shaped.

Straight Staircases present few installation problems; the total cost
is apt to be less than for other staircase designs. Getting into and out
of the stair lift chair is possibly the greatest concern. Most
well-designed stair lifts have a swivel-chair feature,
enabling
ease-of-mounting/dismounting. If
a staircase top landing area is too
small for the swivel feature, many stair lifts will
bend around the end of
the staircase, stopping the track a few feet beyond the landing edge
and increasing the safety-of-use factor.
A stair lift which only travels to
the edge of a top landing
may actually increase the risk of falls for
riders due to difficult mount and dismount positions.
(see photo)

Curved Staircases generally require custom-configured stair lift
tracks which can significantly increase the purchase and installation
expense. Mounting and dismounting ease and safety are still the
same high-concern factors as in the case of straight staircases.

L-Shaped Staircases require the stair lift tracks to bend at a right
angle at the landing's turn, which may increase purchase and
installation expense. An alternative option of two separate stair lifts,
from floor-to-landing and then landing-to-top, requires two lift chairs
and necessitates a seat transfer on the landing. The added lift chair
may increase overall cost and the required transfer may increase risk
of falling.
   Identify the shape of your staircase and decide which stair lift
options are best for your particular factors and needs.

The complex design of a
curved staircase track can
increase purchase and
installation costs
Stair lifts which stop at the
very edge of the top
landing
present fall risks
for riders
getting on or off
A stair lift which bends
away from a landing edge
provides a safer entry and
exit point for riders
Safety and Cost

  A stair lift is meant to increase household safety while decreasing
the chance of falls. A stairway must still be navigable for those not
using the stair lift; a stair lift chair which offers a fold-up foot rest
feature and also swivels out of the staircase path when not in use
can make the stairway much safer to traverse for non-riders.
   Many stair lift foot rests also have an integrated sensor feature
which halts the lift chair if there is an obstruction on the staircase.
This sensor feature, like those on automatic garage door openers,
can prevent any number of stairway mishaps.
   Depending on the type of staircase; stair lift track design; and stair
lift chair features you choose, a stair lift or residential elevator
will
cost between $1500 and $15,000
.
There are stair lifts
designed specifically for
wheelchairs which often
require a wider stairwell
Power Source and Riding Style

   Stair lifts are powered two ways: battery powered by a twelve-volt
battery and direct
AC power from your homes electric wiring system.
   
Battery Power will enable the stair lift to operate even during a
power outage, offering a greater ability for a safe evacuation during
an emergency. The battery will need to be periodically recharged, so
make certain you learn the average number of trips a particular
model is capable of between recharges as part of your selection
criteria.
   
AC Power is an option that wires the stair lift directly into your
home's electrical system; this option eliminates the need for battery
recharging or replacement. One drawback is that an AC-powered
stair lift will not operate during a power outage, potentially stranding
an elderly resident upstairs in the event of an emergency.
   
Riding Style is another consideration when choosing a stair lift.
Most stair lifts have a lift chair feature for transport purposes; some
models offer a stand-up riding feature in which the stair lift rider
stands on a small platform during transport. (The stand-up feature is
generally used when the staircase is too narrow to accommodate a
lift chair version.)
   Stair lifts can also accommodate wheelchairs. A wheelchair stair lift
requires a larger lift platform and typically needs a standard-width (
or
wider
) staircase in order to operate.
   Most stair lifts have a seat belt feature integrated into the lift
chairs. Make sure that the seat belt is easy for the rider to fasten and
detach; also verify that once detached, the seat belts are safely out
of the way so a rider dismounting a lift chair does not get entangled
in them.

   Stair lifts can be one of the most important home features in terms
of senior safety and increased quality of life. Be very thorough when
shopping for a stair lift; choose a reputable brand, dealer and
installer for your purchase.
Stair lifts with tracks
which bend away from the
staircase at top and
bottom clear the way for
non-riders to traverse