When mobility becomes an issue, moving to a bungalow or downstairs flat might seem like the only solution. But no-one wants to move away from the family home they've found comfort in for years, and with the cost of properties, mortgage rates and other costs going through the roof recently, moving isn't a practical or cost-effective option.
But there is another long-term option that can help you maintain your independence – installing a stairlift.
Choosing the right stairlift is an important decision that should be approached with care and consideration. It's not a one-size-fits-all situation, so taking the time to consider the different options available, and how they will effect your way of living, is really important.
That's why we've put together this guide - we'll walk you through the process of selecting a stairlift that suits your unique needs, without any pushy sales pitches.
Seek advice from trusted sources
When it comes to deciding on a stairlift, it's important to consult with people who can offer impartial advice.
Health professionals, such as Occupational Therapists, can provide valuable impartial insights. They can help you determine if a stairlift is the right choice for your needs now and in the future, and may be able to connect you with organisations that offer financial assistance, such as grants and loans.
If you're not currently registered with an Occupational Therapist, you can ask for an assessment by contacting your local council social services department, or privately via the Royal College of Occupational Therapists.
It might sound obvious, but it's always a good idea to reach out to those who have already had stairlifts installed in their homes.
Their personal experiences and recommendations can be invaluable in guiding your decision-making process, especially as they will have idea about the aftercare you can expect, once the initial sale has been made.
Finally, discuss your options with a stairlift supplier (like us!). Any company worth their salt should be able to run through all options in detail with you, and will have no preference about the option you choose, as long as it suits your needs.
If you feel that you are being pushed into a quick sale, maybe consider why this is, and if the service is something you'll feel comfortable with down the line. The most important thing should be that you receive the best service, and most suitable stairlift, for your needs.
Stairlift options to match your staircase
The style and layout of your staircase play a significant role in determining the type of stairlift that suits your needs:
If you have a straight staircase, it's usually fairly straightforward to install a stairlift that runs along a straight rail.
Straight stairlifts are the easiest to install, are usually the cheapest option (as the rail just has to be cut to size, rather than custom made) and be fitted in just a couple of hours.
Once upon a time, it may have been difficult to install a straight stairlift on a very narrow staircase. However, there are now a number of different solutions, such as perch or ergo seats, which allow your knees to sit further back and increases the space between your legs and the wall.
If you have any corners in your staircase, you'll need a curved stairlift.
Stairlifts fitted on curved staircases tend to be more expensive because the rail is custom made, however as they're made to fit the exact dimensions and contours of your staircase, they maximise useable space by hugging every turn as closely as possible.
Trying a stairlift
Just like you probably wouldn't buy a car without test driving it first, it's usually a good idea to visit a stairlift showroom to try different models and get a feel for how they look, and work.
Some suppliers (like us) have showrooms fitted out with the latest models. Book at a time suitable for you, and an expert will demonstrate how they work and even show you colour swatches, to ensure it blends into your decor.
If they don't have a showroom, they may be able to contact a local customer who would be willing to let you try theirs.
Deciding your budget
Although a stairlift is an investment into your independence, we know that everyone is feeling the pinch and that cost really does matter. That's why we've run through a number of funding options:
Council or Government funded
It's always worth looking into whether you might be eligible for a stairlift provided or funded by your local council. The brands of stairlift are the same ones you'd buy yourself, and the stairlift company will work with the council to ensure you're getting the correct model for your needs..
In some areas, the district council makes arrangements to lease new or reconditioned stairlifts, while some hold their own second-hand stock to give or lease. The council is then responsible for the repairs and maintenance.
Other councils may ask you to apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG). A Disabled Facilities Grant maximum award is £30,000 in England, £36,000 in Wales and £25,000 in Northern Ireland. If you live in Scotland, the alternative is a scheme of assistance.
Depending on your income you may be awarded a full grant or a percentage towards the costs.
Start the application by contacting your local authority's social services department to request an assessment, stating that you're experiencing difficulty using your stairs.
If you're provided with a DFG stairlift, it becomes your personal property and you're generally responsible for the servicing and repairs. Be sure to check this, as you will need to budget for annual services and any repairs required over the lifetime of your stairlift.
If you're not eligible for a grant or council-funded stairlift, you'll need to consider your budget.
Stairlift prices vary, depending on the features installed and whether you need a straight or curved track, however as a guide, a straight stairlift could cost from £900.00, and a new curved stairlift from £3000.00.
Some stairlift companies keep stock of reconditioned stairlifts, which are available at discounted prices but tested to the same rigorous standards before installing.
They should be upgraded to meet all current safety and technical specifications, and provided with a unique serial number to verify it's full history.
Even though the stairlift is reconditioned, it should still be provided with a 12 month guarantee.
Unfortunately it's often not possible to install a reconditioned curve stairlift, as the rail will have been custom made to it's original owner's home, but it's always worth asking just in case.
Getting a stairlift quote
For any stairlift company to be able to give you an accurate quote, their surveyor will need to visit your home to carry out a survey - this should be free of charge.
This visit is your chance to find out about the different models of stairlift the company offers. But it's not just about your staircase, the assessor will need to find out about you too.
By understanding your unique requirements, the surveyor can identify the features that will best cater to your specific needs. For instance, they may inquire about your physical and mental capabilities to ensure you're comfortable using features like remote controls and seatbelts, ensuring that any necessary adaptations are considered.
To make a well-informed decision, it's a wise move to gather price quotes from at least two or three different companies. By comparing these quotes, and your experiences with the companies, you can confidently choose the best option that suits your needs and budget.
If you're considering a stairlift and want to weigh up all the options, make an appointment to visit our comprehensive showroom in Hamble, Southampton, where we can show you the range we supply, install and maintain, with absolutely no sales pressure.
Alternatively, if you'd like us to visit your home and provide a quotation, contact us to book a survey on a date that is convenient for you.