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As seniors get older, mobility issues may become more prevalent. If a senior is still living at home and has a multi-level home, stairs can present a challenge. Joint pain and balance problems can make stairs nearly impossible. For many, parts of their home become inaccessible because they can no longer climb stairs. That’s why some choose to install stair lifts inside their home.

What is a Stair Lift?

A stair lift is a chair that moves up and down a staircase using a motorized rail system. A person simply needs to sit in the chair, fasten the safety belt, and press a button. The chair will then move them up and down the staircase. Call and send buttons are also a part of the lift system so that the chair can move up and down the staircase without someone actually being in it. This comes in handy if there is more than one person using the lift.

There are different types of stair lifts to accommodate different types of staircases inside the home and different types of users. Not all staircases are straight up and down. Some are curved, which needs to be taken into consideration when choosing a stair lift.

Types of Stair Lifts

The type of staircase in the home among other considerations will help to determine the proper stair lift. Here are the most common ones:

  • Standard stair lift. This is the one you typically see when talking about stair lifts. This chair attaches to a straight rail that allows the chair to go up and down. This type of lift is best for people who can still walk, but just have trouble climbing stairs. The seat can be stationary, fold up, or swivel.
  • Curved stair lift. This works the same as the standard chair lift. The only difference is that the chair is on a curved rail to suit a curved staircase. The seat options are the same as the standard stair lift.
  • Standing stair lift. This is best for people who have trouble sitting and would rather stand. In order for this lift to work the way it should, there needs to be enough headroom for the person to move safely up and down the stairs. Sometimes these lifts are also used in homes where the staircase is too narrow to fit a chair.
  • Platform stair lift. This lift allows a person in a wheelchair or scooter to go up and down the stairs. It is intended for people who cannot move from a standing to seated position in a traditional stair lift. There needs to be ample room in the home for this type of lift to fit properly.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Stair Lift

No matter which type of stair lift is chosen, there are several things to consider.

  • Is the lift battery or electrically operated? While electrical may seem like the best choice, remember if the power goes out, so does the ride. Batteries will need to be replaced eventually, but there is peace of mind knowing that the stair lift is not relying on electricity.
  • Do I need a standard or heavy duty lift? Standard stair lifts can usually hold up 300 pounds while heavy duty lifts can safely support 500-600 pounds.
  • What kind of seat do I need? If space on the staircase is an issue, a fold-up seat may be the best choice especially if other people will be walking up and down the stairs. Other seat options include stationary seats and swivel seats. The height of whatever seat is chosen must also be low enough so the user can sit and stand easily.
  • Should I buy or rent the stair lift? Some companies offer both options. Look into both costs and think about if you plan to stay in your home for a long time.
  • How much am I willing to spend? The cost of a stair lift can range anywhere from $2,500 to as much as $5,000 installed depending on the type of stair lift needed.

Does Insurance Pay for a Senior Stair Lift?

There is a strong chance that insurance will not cover a stair lift, so be prepared to pay out-of-pocket. Medicare does not cover a stair lift nor do Medicare supplemental policies.

There is no definitive answer on Medicaid coverage because it is determined on a state by state basis. It’s best to check where you live to see if a stair lift would be covered. Some Medicaid plans may cover the cost of a stair lift in cases where it is medically necessary. But, that is determined case by case.

Veterans may be able to take advantage of Veterans’ benefits to cover the cost of a stair lift. Wheelchair bound veterans and those who are disabled due to their service may have a stair lift covered. Contact a Veterans’ benefit coordinator to see if you qualify.

If it is determined that the stair lift is going to be an out-of-pocket expense, some companies offer payment plans to make the cost more affordable. It’s important to check into these options and see what is available.

Reviewed By

Linda Schlenker

Senior Safety Expert

Linda’s Acclaimed Career in Senior Care Linda Schlenker is a comforting voice for seniors and caregivers across the U.S. For nearly three decades, Linda has helped seniors remain safe in their own homes, while helping them to regain priceless independence and peace… Learn More About Linda Schlenker

Written By

Jeff Hoyt

Editor in Chief

Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt