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Savvy Senior: Advice on choosing a home stair lift

Dear Savvy Senior: Because of chronic arthritis, I have a very difficult time going up and down stairs and am interested in purchasing a stair lift for my two-story house. Can you recommend some good companies? — Arthritic Andy

Dear Andy: A good home stair lift is a great mobility solution for anyone who is unable to or struggles with climbing stairs. To help you choose a quality stair lift that meets your needs and budget, here are a few shopping tips along with some top-rated companies.

What to know

There are two basic types of stair lifts: straight and curved. The type you need will depend upon the design of your staircase.

A straight stair lift is one that travels in a straight line up a flight of stairs uninterrupted by landings, bends or curves. They cost $2,000 to $5,000 installed.

Curved lifts are much more elaborate and will go around corners, bends and changes in direction. They are also much more expensive, typically running $8,500 to $15,000 or more depending on the complexity of the installation.

Most stair lifts also have seats, armrests and footplates that fold up out of the way and swivel seats that make getting into and out of the chair easier. They also come with standard safety features such as seat belts, braking systems and footrest sensors, push-button or rocker-switch controls located on the armrest for easy operation, and “call send” controls that allow you to call or send the unit to the other end of the stairs. Make sure the lift you choose has all these features.

If you are a large person, you may need to get a heavy-duty lift with a wider seat and bigger lifting capacity. Or, if you’re tall, find out about raising the seat height during installation.

Depending on the company, you may also have the option of choosing between an electric and a battery-powered stair lift. Electric stair lifts are simpler and cheaper than battery-powered units, but if your home loses power so does your lift. While battery-powered lifts work even if there’s a power failure.

Best stair lifts

To help you choose a great stair lift, the National Council on Aging, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for older Americans, put together a review team to research the different companies. Their list of best stair lifts of 2023 includes:

Editor’s pick: Bruno (bruno.com)

Most affordable: AmeriGlide (ameriglide.com)

Best customer reviews: Acorn (acornstairlifts.com)

Most supportive design: Harmar (harmar.com)

See NCOA.org/adviser/stair-lifts/best-stair-lifts to read the detailed reviews.

Financial help

Unfortunately, health insurance, including original Medicare, does not cover home stair lifts, but some Medicare Advantage plans may help pay. If you have long-term care insurance it may also cover a portion of the costs.

If you qualify for Medicaid, many states offer waivers that may help pay for a lift, and the VA has several grant and benefit programs that may offer assistance if you’re a veteran.

To save money, you may want to consider purchasing a used or refurbished model. Or, if you need a stair lift for only a short period of time, consider renting one.

To get started, contact some of the previously listed stair lift companies who will put you in touch with a dealer in your area. All dealers provide free in-home assessments and estimates and can help you choose an appropriate lift.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org.

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