Arthritis is one of the most common medical conditions affecting millions of adults in the U.S. It can make movement difficult, especially going up and down stairs. Accessibility devices such as stairlifts and platform lifts ease life for people with this debilitating condition. In fact, these devices are specifically designed to make homes safer and more comfortable for people with accessibility problems.

Choosing a Stairlift

Leading suppliers of accessibility equipment offer a wide selection of devices with varying features and options. To choose the right one for your needs, you need to thoroughly assess your physical problems as well as the layout of your home.

Stair chair lifts comprise a motorized seat attached to a track fixed to the wall. People with arthritis need to consider both physical and structural issues before choosing a lift for their home:

Physical Problems

  • Swivel seat: It is easier and safer to get off a lift with a swivel seat. Swivel seats come with armrests that you can grip and a control that allows the seat to swivel to the desired position. Make sure that you can operate the control without much difficulty.
  • Folding/unfolding the chair: The footplate, seat and armrests of some models of stairlifts need to be folded out of the way to make room on the staircase for others. Folding and unfolding the footplate can be challenging for a person with hand, arm or wrist problems. Remember that you may need to do this several times a day. So check if you can do it safely and also cope with folding away the armrests.
  • Operating mechanism: Does the device have a drive button or a joystick mechanism? Pressing the drive button continuously for the whole ride would be difficult if you have hand or wrist problems. In that case, a lift with a joystick mechanism would be a more suitable choice.
  • Height: The height of the seat is important if you have hip, knee or back problems. If arthritis prevents from sitting upright, make sure that your knees or feet will not brush against the opposite wall or handrails. Leading manufacturer Acorn offers perch and stand stairlift models which are an ideal option for people with knee problems.

Wheelchair users have special needs such as transferring to and from the stairlift, and these need to be considered when choosing a lift. They can also consider investing in a through-floor wheelchair platform lift.

Structural Issues

  • Type of staircase: Is your stairway straight or curved? Both straight and curved stairlifts are available.
  • Narrow hallway or doorway problems: If you have a narrow hallway or doorway at the bottom of your stairs, you would do well to choose a lift with a folding rail. In a device with this option, the bottom section of rail can be moved up and out of the way so that it does not obstruct the doorway. Acorn’s 130 stairlift comes with this facility. If you cannot fold or unfold it, choose the power folding rail option.
  • Narrow stairs: If your home has a narrow staircase, choose a stairlift with a slim, ultra-compact design.

Try Before You Buy

As each person has different requirements, it is important that you try out the stairlift before purchase. An established dealer in accessibility equipment would have a conveniently located showroom where customers can view working models of the stairlifts and other devices they offer. A reliable supplier will help you choose and install the right type of device to make living with arthritis easier.