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Different Types of Stair Lifts

Updated on July 13, 2009

The stairs in a home can present a number of risks to people of any age, however for seniors these risks are greatly increased.

For instance, falling on the stairs is the leading reason for hospital stays, as well as the prime cause of accidental deaths. These risks can make many seniors simply avoid using the stairs, which is generally a good idea when out in public. However, if you are forced to avoid the stairs in your own home, you are subsequently avoiding a large portion of your home. To help avoid this type of inconvenience and to help increase senior staircase safety, a stair lift can be installed.

Stair Chairs

Stair lifts are very important tools and are used to transport a senior to the top of a staircase and back down again. There are a number of different stair lifts designs and models, but most use the traditional stair chair model.

The stair chair model consists of a simple chair, typically made out of plastic, which moves along a metal track that is attached to the steps on the staircase. The chair includes built in footrest sensors to detect objects on the stairs, like a purse or child's toy, and often include a seat belt as well.

Perch Lifts

While the traditional stair chair model is most common, there are several other designs. For example, for people who can not sit in a chair safely, such as might be the case of someone who has had a knee replacement surgery, a standing stair lift is often used.

Standing stair lifts, which are called perch lifts, offer a small platform for the user to stand on and at least one handhold. Since the user of a perch lift must remain standing as they are carried up or down the stairs, these types of stair lifts are a little bit more risky to use, especially for seniors who suffer from dementia or other disorders that could affect balance. As a result, it is not usually a good idea to go with a perch lift unless you specifically need it for medical reasons.

Curved Stair Lifts

Another less common type of stair lift is the curved stair lift. These are designed for staircases that are curved and in some cases can be very expensive. However, it is important to make the distinction between a curved staircase and one that has a 90 Degree bend.

This is because stair lifts for staircases that have a 90 degree bend, which are 'L' shaped and pretty much just two straight staircases put together, perhaps with a landing, are less expensive than stair lifts for curved staircases. Stair lifts for 'L' shaped staircases are still more expensive that straight staircases.

One of the reasons that curved stair lifts are more expensive is that there is because curved staircases are not uniform in design. Instead, they come in all different shapes and sizes, so a curved stair lift must be custom made to fit the staircase. This not only results in a much more expensive stair lift, but a much longer installation time. For instance, a straight stair lift can usually be ordered and installed in a week. A curved stair lift, on the other hand, can easily take over two months to be built and installed.

For people with a curved staircase, it is usually a good idea to compare the cost of installing an elevator against the cost of a curved stair lift. Often the cost is not that different and an elevator holds its value, which in turn increases the homes value, while a curved stair lift can not be used on other staircases unless it features an identical curve, so it has little resale value.

Some companies do sell used curved stair lifts, but these can be very dangerous, as the company simply re-bends the stair lift track to fit your staircase. As a result, the metal is greatly weakened. Warning signs of this type of dishonest seller is significantly lower prices, coupled with much lower warranty lengths. This is because a re-bent track is much more likely to fail, so the company will not offer as comprehensive of a warranty.

Incline Platform Lifts

While the stair lifts described above can be very important safety tools, they can not be used easily by people using a wheelchair or mobility scooter. For those that use mobility vehicles a special type of stair lift is required called a incline platform lift. These are similar to a stair lift, except instead of a chair they provide a platform that the user can drive their wheelchair or scooter onto.

The track of an incline platform lift is attached to the wall of the stairs and these devices take up a great deal of space, so might not work on residential staircases. However, they are very popular among schools and other public areas that have wider staircases.

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