If you or a member of your family can't go up and down the stairs of your home unaided, you may be thinking about installing a handy device variously known as a stair glide, stair lift, or some similar term. These mini-elevators can give you a safe, comfortable trip up and down your stairway, either via a bench seat or by accommodating a wheelchair. But the sheer range of models and options can cause their own brand of frustration for anyone purchasing a stair lift for the first time. Here are some essential considerations to help you narrow your shopping list.
Battery Powered vs. Plugged In
As with so many other electric appliances, wheelchair lifts and other types of chair lifts may require either battery power or household current. Both varieties perform equally well, but your choice between one type of stair lift and the other will depend on:
- Whether you have a reliable, uninterrupted source of household electricity - If your home is prone to power failures, you may find yourself stranded at the top or bottom of the stairs until the electricity is restored. Even if you do have a relatively stable power supply, an occasional power failure could be dangerous if you live alone.
- How easily you can charge a battery-powered unit - Battery-powered stair glides must be charged every so often without fail, or they will fail you when you need them most. If you have limited use of your hands or another impairment that makes this job difficult or impossible, a battery-driven system might not be for you.
The best of both worlds, of course, is a plug-in system equipped with an emergency backup battery. These units will require an extra investment, but the safety and peace of mind they provide is probably well worth the money.
If you automatically assumed that you would have to pay the full retail price for a brand-new wheelchair lift or stair glide unit, think again. Many companies give you a choice between new and used star lifts. There's actually nothing wrong with purchasing a used model, provided that it has been properly reconditioned and overhauled so that all the wires, safety features, and moving parts are in good working order -- and it can save you a good deal of money.
Renting versus buying is another issue where you'll need to add up the dollars and cents each way to see which option makes more financial sense. The longer you plan on using the stair chair lift, the more sense it makes to just go ahead and buy it.
Even the style of staircase can affect what you'll pay for your stair lift installation. Curved staircases are significantly harder to equip with stair lifts than traditional straight staircases -- and that extra effort translates into more money. You might even find it more cost effective to straighten out your curved staircase and then order the installation.
Hopefully your health, disability, or long-term care insurance will cover at least part of the expense of purchasing and installing your new stair lift. It's critically important that you ask your insurance provider exactly what they will or won't cover before you do anything else. You may discover, for instance, that the company will cover a higher percentage or dollar amount if you buy a reconditioned stair lift as opposed to a new one. If you're an elderly individual, take note that Medicare doesn't offer any coverage for stairlifts. Fortunately, Medicaid does -- you just have to make sure that the seller accepts this form of insurance.
The more you know about all the little details of buying and installing a stair lift in your home, the more likely you are to end up with a product that gives you many years of affordable, trouble-free use. So have those necessary conversations with stair lift retailers and insurance agencies -- and enjoy your new mobility!
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