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Senior Staircase Safety

Updated on September 8, 2009

Not being able to safely walk up and down the stairs is a problem that is faced by many people all over the world. Most often, this is a problem that occurs with seniors and the elderly, who suffer from diseases like arthritis or glaucoma and are unable to independently use the staircase. This can be very frustrating, with many very serious safety risks also presenting themselves.

Less Than Optimal Approaches to the Problem

Some seniors choose to simply not use the stairs, opting instead to reorganize their home in a manner that the stairs can be avoided. As a result, they are greatly reducing the amount of space they have available to them and end up avoiding a large area of their home.

Another option that some go for to reduce the risk of a fall on the stairs is to move to an assisted living facility. However, not only does this result in a loss of independence, but it also can be very expensive, especially for seniors who have already paid for their home. It may also be possible to move to a home with a single floor, but again this represents a very big expense and buying a new home is very time consuming, not to mention a very large life change.

Yet another option is to hire a nurse or use a family member to help when it comes time to climb or descend the staircase. This can also be very costly and, in the case of relying on a family member, can put stains on family relations. Also, this method of increasing staircase accessibility means that someone has to be there in order to use the stairway. Since paying a nurse for 24 hour care is much too expensive for most, this means that during the night, there could be no one there to help the senior use the stairs, which could be a very big problem if there is an emergency.

Using a Stair Lift to Increase Safety

With each of the above options, it is clear that there are some very real and legitimate financial, logistical, or safety concerns. None of these solutions will adequately address the problem of a senior not being able to use the staircase. Instead, a much more cost effective and practical method of increasing accessibility and safety on the stairs is to install a stair lift.

The stair lift is a type of medical lifting aid that has been around for almost 100 years, although they did not become popular for consumers until the late eighties and early nineties. Stair lifts are designed to help carry a senior or other person who has limited mobility up a staircase. These devices are excellent fall prevention tools, because instead of having to climb the stairs, the senior is very literally carried up the stairs by the stair lift.

Stair lifts come in a number of different designs, which can vary depending on the type of staircase in the home. Most, however, make use of a chair to hold the senior. The chair includes a footrest with built in collision sensor, which detects objects on the stairway, and usually also includes a seat belt to make the device safer. For those who rely heavily on a caregiver, shoulder restraints are also available. The chair is sent up and down the stairway on a metal track that is directly attached to the steps of the staircase.

Since safety, dependability, and independence are such an obvious concern for seniors, using a stair lift is often the best match. It is also usually the most cost sensitive means of making the stairway safer, much less expensive, both in regards to time and money, than installing an elevator, changing residences, or hiring a paid nurse.

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