It is understandable that many people tend to believe—or assume—certain things about stair lifts prior to speaking with a trained stair lift expert.
After all, it’s “just” a chair that goes up and down the stairs, so how complicated can it be?
While stair lifts are not as complex as elevators, they are designed using the same principles. So, there is more “under the hood” than you might think!
If you’re thinking about purchasing a stair lift, it can be overwhelming to sift through all of the available information to tell myth versus reality.
As a family owned company with over 35 years of experience, we understand how important it is to make informed decisions for yourself and your loved ones.
Keep reading to learn more about the truths behind common stair lift myths.
Myth #1: Stair lifts are expensive
We hear this myth repeated often, even by people who know a lot about other aspects of aging in place. One simple question must be asked in response: Are stair lifts actually expensive, when compared to alternative options? The fact is, if a stair lift solves the mobility challenge of the person involved, it is almost always the most affordable way to achieve accessibility in the home. You may consider alternatives such as remodeling your existing home layout or adding an addition onto the main floor. Alternatively, you might consider a senior living facility. While the cost of a straight stair lift is typically $3,000-$5,500, the average cost of a senior living facility is more than that for just a single month. If you are fortunate enough to have a bedroom and a bathroom on the main floor of your home, limiting yourself to one floor might be a viable option. But what about access to laundry, hobbies such as sewing or woodworking, and perhaps most importantly, the memories that different parts of the home carry with them? In the end, if you need help safely climbing the stairs, a stair lift purchase is actually an investment in the freedom to travel throughout your entire home. It’s very important to weigh the alternatives before dismissing a stair lift as “too expensive”.
Myth #2: Stair lifts are wheelchair accessible
This is mostly false. A stair lift is a chair with arms and a footrest that travels up and down a set of stairs. If you use a wheelchair, you will need to transfer from the wheelchair to the stair lift seat prior to using the stair lift, and then back onto a wheelchair at the other end of the stairs. For this reason, oftentimes a stair lift is not the right solution for someone who uses a wheelchair. Instead, a residential wheelchair lift or home elevator might be the ideal home accessibility solution. On the other hand, if you are able to get out of your wheelchair and into an adjacent armchair or kitchen chair safely, a stair lift might solve your mobility challenge. An in-home meeting with someone who is knowledgeable about all types of accessibility lifts and home elevators is highly recommended to help you make the right decision for your needs. This consultation should be offered free of charge and with no obligation. If you have the opportunity, take the time to visit a local showroom to test ride the stair lifts for yourself before deciding what solution works for you.
Myth #3: Medicare pays for stair lifts
There is a lot of misunderstanding about this topic, but the simple truth is that Medicare does NOT pay for stair lifts. This confusion can often be traced back to an important distinction between a stair lift (or “chair lift”) and a lift chair, which is a mechanized arm chair that helps the user stand up from a seated position. While Medicare will, in some cases, cover the latter piece of equipment, stair lifts are not covered. Unfortunately, not everyone, including some people who administer the Medicare program, initially recognize the difference of these equipment types based on the name. Because of this, we have met many clients who have been incorrectly informed that a portion of the stair lift will be covered, which can be very frustrating when you are shopping for a mobility solution. While the determination of what expenses Medicare covers is not in our control, we do offer financing and reconditioned stair lifts, in order to help with the cost.
Myth #4: Stair lifts are only for “elderly” people
This is not true. Stair chair lifts are useful mobility aids for people of any age who struggle with safely using the stairs. There is no specific age, situation, or reason that makes purchasing a chair lift the right decision. Although many of our clients are considered “seniors,” we commonly work with families overcoming a wide variety of mobility challenges. These families include those with children or young adults with physical disabilities as well. Lastly, some of our clients choose to purchase a stair lift before they plan to use it regularly in order to transport everyday items—such as laundry or holiday decorations. Afterall, a stair lift is generally more affordable than a residential dumbwaiter and will also safely carry a person in between floors!
Myth #5: Stair lifts are dangerous
Stair lifts are incredibly safe and reliable mobility devices when installed properly. Because stair lift safety is an extremely important topic, we’ve answered three common stair lift safety questions below:
Will a stair lift leave me stranded in a power outage?
No, all modern stair chair lifts work off of rechargeable, heavy duty (12 volt) batteries. Although the batteries will not last forever, chair lifts are designed like this so that they still work for several trips up and down the stairs if there is a power outage. Please note that in the event of an extended power outage, the lift should be turned “off” when not in use in order to preserve the battery life.
Can my chair lift keep going past the end of the rail?
If you’ve seen the 1980s movie Gremlins, you may know where this myth comes from. But it’s just that—a movie myth! In the movie, a person using a stair lift famously keeps going at the top of the stairs due to a science fiction-based phenomenon—for entertainment purposes. While this isn’t exactly our idea of entertainment, it has left a lasting impression in the minds of many viewers of this film. In reality, there are several safety measures in place on any properly installed stair lift that make it impossible for the chair to travel past the end of the rail. With these safety measures in place, this myth can stay in the movies.
Are there any legitimate stair lift safety issues?
Yes, there absolutely are some instances where stair lift safety is a real issue. There are extremely rare situations where very cheap stair lifts, or poorly installed stair lifts, have had a serious safety issue. We encourage you to ask questions before deciding on a stair lift, to make sure that the person installing it has professional training. If you’re choosing to purchase a used unit, make sure that you know the history of the chair, including who uninstalled it and whether it went through a reconditioning process. Properly installed stair lifts save lives. Millions of individuals have benefited from the use of a stair lift rather than struggling with walking up and down the stairs unsteadily due to physical limitations.
Myth #6: Stair lift costs start at around $1,000
No, this is not accurate. It’s true that some websites will offer “bait and switch” ads advertising stair lift prices this low. But stair lifts are complex electro-mechanical devices, and any reliable stair lift model will have a price that reflects that. As a family-owned and veteran-owned business, we are committed to honesty and fairness, which is why we always provide real pricing and are happy to speak with you about the cost of ownership before you decide if a stair lift is right for you. Safe, reliable stair lifts do not cost under $1,000—or anywhere close to that. However, the good news is that stair lifts are almost always the cheapest way to stay in your home! This is one reason why stair lifts have been gaining in popularity in recent years.
Myth #7: Stair lifts are all pretty much the same
Like anything else, it is tempting to lump all stair lifts together. After all, how much can one stair lift vary from another in terms of quality, reliability and safety? In reality, there are big differences when comparing one stair lift model to another. One helpful way to understand this is to consider how much one automobile make and model varies from another. When purchasing a vehicle, you’ll likely consider safety, longevity, cost of ownership and reliability. It’s important that you take the same things into consideration when purchasing a stair lift. After all, the chair lift will be physically transporting you or a loved one regularly. At Arrow Lift, we’ve done the research for you and we know which manufacturers produce safe, high-quality stair lifts that we feel comfortable putting our “Arrow Lift” name on. Rest assured that if we put our company name on it, we stand behind it.
Myth #8: Stair lifts move slowly
There is one speed setting for all stair lifts: safe. The speed with which a stair lift goes up and down the stairs varies from one make and model to another, and ranges from approximately 15 to 25 feet per minute. When you consider that the average residential staircase is about 14 feet long, this means it usually takes just under one minute to go from one end to the other. Although this may seem like a long time to some, it’s helpful to consider how long it takes to safely walk up or down the stairs without a stair lift. Often, using a stair lift is actually a time saver. In the end, while you may (or may not) spend an extra few seconds on the stairs, you’ll gain the safety and peace of mind that a stair lift provides.
Myth #9: Stair lifts take up a lot of room/block the stairs
The simple truth is that modern stair lift models take up minimal space on the staircase. The majority of stair lift rails available today sit approximately 6 to 9 inches away from the wall, allowing most of the staircase to remain available for those choosing to walk. You may be thinking, “But what about the stair lift chair itself?” Great question! The chair can be sent down to the bottom landing using one of the remote controls provided with the stair lift. It can also be folded up when not in use. With the stair lift chair folded up at the bottom landing, a non-stair lift user can easily walk past it. Once you’re on the first step of the staircase, you have almost the entire width of the staircase available to use. For these reasons, it is very rare for the presence of a stair lift to pose a real, practical problem for others to use the staircase as they did before the stair lift was installed.
Myth # 10: Installing a stair lift will ruin my stairs and/or walls
Almost certainly not! Stair lifts do not attach to the wall at all; they attach directly to the stair treads. If your stairs are carpeted, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to see the screw holes after the stair lift is removed. The carpet pile conceals the small screw holes that remain after the stair lift rail is removed. If you have wooden stairs, the holes are still very small and there are a number of simple solutions to fill them in. You can use wood-colored putty from your local hardware store, or even insert a golf tee into the screw hole using a small hammer. With a small amount of sanding and some touch up with paint or stain, the minor holes will be completely filled in. In most cases these added steps are not needed, since visitors usually cannot tell that a stair lift was ever installed there in the first place, any more than you can tell that a piece of furniture was placed on top of the carpet prior to removal.
Myth # 11: A stair lift won’t support my weight
The weight limit will vary based on the brand and model. Most modern stair lifts are weight rated for at least 300 lbs, but we often install lifts rated for up to 400 lbs or more. You may even choose a chair with a higher weight limit based on your personal comfort after test riding several different chairs in one of our local showrooms. We recommend working with a stair lift expert if at all possible. They will help you determine what stair lifts will meet your needs.
Myth #12: Buying a stair lift means you’re losing your independence
The fact is that stair lifts help preserve independent living. If safety on the stairs is a concern at all, then you should seriously consider a stair lift or other type of home lift. Of all the tens of thousands of stair lifts we have installed for our clients over the past 35+ years, not once has anyone said “I should have waited longer before purchasing this stair lift.” On the contrary, we often hear, “I should have done this a long time ago!” When it comes to the decision between staying in the home you love and moving to a “senior living facility,” if stairs are the issue— a stair lift can help you maintain your independence at home!
Contact us to learn more!
We understand that purchasing a stair lift is an important decision, and we’re happy to answer your questions honestly. As a family-owned and operated business, Arrow Lift has been helping people stay in the homes they love since 1985, and we would be honored to do the same for you and your family. Contact us today to learn more about stair lifts, and set up a free, no obligation consultation with your local lift expert.