What is a stair lift?
It is a mechanical device designed for lifting elderly or disabled people up or down the stairs. The type of stair lift installed and the installation process depends a great deal on how wide the staircase is. Stair lifts are usually fixed with rails mounted to the treads of the stairs, after which a lifting platform or chair is then attached to the track.
The person using the stair lift can then climb on to the lifting platform or chair to be lifted up or down the stairs, depending on preference. The user has the freedom to control the stair lift.
The first stair lift ever produced was made in the 1930s, by the Inclinator Company of America. They were designed for individuals having polio. These days, they are used by various categories of people, like those who cannot navigate stairs due to one form of disability or another, or those who are prone to fall and the elderly.
Common features of stairlifts
The stair lifts made in recent times comes with many features lacking in the earliest versions of stair lifts. Some of the many features you can find in modern stair lifts made for the elderly are highlighted below:
• Adjustable seat height: This feature makes it possible to raise or lower the seat. This way, the elderly can find a comfortable position very quickly and feel safe in operation.
• Battery isolation switches: The switches are placed adequately close to the elderly sitting on the stair lift so that they can be controlled quickly and effortlessly. This feature equally makes battery charging a lot easier for the user.
• Call stations: This feature makes it easy for the user to reach out to others via a phone call while using the stair lift. The telephone is also placed close to the reach of the elderly on the stair lift.
• Flip-up rail: This feature further improves the portability of the track and can create more space on the floor at bottom of staircase if there is an obstruction such as a doorway, especially when the stair lift is not being used.
• Key switch: This feature makes it even easier to control the stair lift. The feature ensures that the end user can switch on or switch off the stair lift effortlessly.
• Speed governor: As its name implies, this feature makes it possible for the user to regulate the speed of movement of the stair lift when climbing or descending the stairs. This feature helps prevent excess speeding, either up or down the stairs, towards preventing an accident.
• Seat belt: Stairlifts: just like a car, have seat belts. The straps, as expected, help to secure the elderly to the stair lift so that you will not lose balance while the device is moving up or down the stairs.
• Soft start: The feature ensures that the stair lift does not start suddenly, but does so smoothly and gradually so that it will not jolt the elderly or disabled person moving off on the stair lift.
• Soft spot: The weak spot feature works just like the soft start feature, albeit oppositely. It ensures that the stair lift does not come to a halt suddenly, which may throw the elderly person using the stair lift off balance; such a situation can lead to unwanted accidents.
Popular types of stairlifts
In the next section of this write-up, we will focus on the various types of stair lifts around today and to what purpose each of them is best suited.
Straight rail stairlifts
They are considered the most common types of stair lifts and are often used in private houses that have straight stairs. It comes with a straight rail or track, and the track is attached to each of the steps on the staircase. The installation process is very easy and straightforward; it rarely takes more than a day to complete the installation. The rails required for the installation are merely cut to the right length from stock. Aside from the ease of installation, this type is equally the most affordable type of stair lift.
Curved rail stairlifts
This type of stair lift is installed in line with the curved shape of the staircase; that is, it is installed in curved stairs. This type of stair lift removes the need for multiple straight stairs in stairwells that have intermediate flat landings, thereby providing a continuous, unhindered ride all the way up or down the stairs. This type of stair lift is more complicated than the straight type mentioned earlier. It must remain level when traveling along the track that changes angles and direction.
Aside from having a more complicated installation procedure, this type is equally more expensive than the straight model. The stair lift must be carefully measured before the installation. The manufacturing and the designing must also be done very carefully. These processes tend to take a more extended period than the straight type.
Some stairlifts with curved rails are made from modular parts and can be delivered faster than the other types. However, the factory-made kind follows the shape of the curved staircase better than the modular model. Also, installing the modular type takes more time
Wheelchair vertical platform stairlifts
The platform, in this case, is upright and does not follow the shape of the staircase. The construction is much more substantial than any of the other ones earlier mentioned; this is because this type is made to transport a scooter or a wheelchair with a person sitting in it. This type can be used in the interior or exterior of private homes and can also be used in public access buildings.
The platform is usually wide so that it can conveniently accommodate a scooter or a wheelchair and the person. It may equally feature folding edge flaps that can act as ramps at different floor levels the flaps identically function to prevent the scooter or wheelchair from falling over the edge, while on the platform.
The rails used in this regard are equally heavy, and they provide adequate support for the load being bored by the stair lift. The drive system of the stair lift is installed in the aluminum extrusion or tubular section rail. Some of the conventional models of this stair lift come with steel cables in the tube, while some other ones have chains. Some other ones are featuring a rack and pinion system.
Many of them are ready for order. As a result, it is possible for the ordered unit not to fit the carriage and platform perfectly. This problem can be avoided by calling in an expert to inspect the area where the stair lift will be installed and take measurements before you order the unit. If you so desire, you can move the lift chair and use it indoors.
As its name implies, this type of stair lift is designed to be used primarily for exterior purposes. They usually feature platforms, footplates, perches, and seats. The design is similar to that of an indoor stair lift, but the outdoor type has better weatherproof features than those used indoors.
How fast can they travel?
Stairlifts for the elderly come with different speed ranges, depending on the type and the model. However, they have soft start function that prevents jerking when the carriage starts moving, as mentioned earlier; do not also forget the soft stop that ensures a smooth slowing down of the stair lift after the brake has been applied.
Many of the stair lifts designed for domestic uses have speed ranging from 0.07 meters per second to 0.15 meters per second (13.78 feet per minute to 29.53 feet per minute). In a curved stair lift, the speed may be adjusted as the stair lift approaches bend and inclines and this will make this type of stair lift run slower for safety.
Very often if someone has a stair lift installed they will require assistance in the bathroom as well. As many houses have bathrooms upstairs there is often a need for people to have a bath lift to lower and raise themselves in the bath.
An inflatable bath lift is a very popular choice which inflates or deflates to lower and raise the user into the bath. The seat can be raised or deflated at will and a good example is the Bath buddy inflatable bath lift.
The above are some of the essential details to bear in mind when looking for the perfect stair lift for the elderly. You may decide to rent a stairlift instead of buying one if the device will only be needed for a short while. There are many things to consider when buying a stairlift and it is important to make sure you have professional advice. A very popular manufacturer is Acorn stairlifts who will visit your home, assess your needs and give you a free quote.