Stairlifts for Mobility

September, 2012 TSG_PTIMG_Stairlift

Once it has become difficult or impossible for someone to get up and down the stairs, they face a choice of options: living downstairs, moving to a bungalow or ground floor flat or installing a domestic lift.

The first option may not be practical because, although it is easy to move a bed downstairs, providing bathroom facilities can prove difficult and costly and downstairs living space will be reduced.

The second option is not only costly but may result in the loss of good friends and neighbours and just isn’t practical or possible. So the alternatives need to be considered.
Certainly, whilst the elderly do not like to think they are losing their independence or are not capable you also have to think ahead about their safety aswell as ability to walk up and down especially if the toilet is upstairs.
Installing a stairlift if often the most practical and economical option and there is a lot of help and advice that can be obtained on the types and the advantages and disadvantages that need to be considered.
Where to get help and advice
Everyone, including a carer, has the right to ask social services for a community care assessment of the person they feel will benefit from assistance. The council assessor will consider the type and level of need and suggest a range of solutions that may include provision of equipment or adaptations. Don’t leave getting this assessment until it is absolutely necessary try and anticipate when it might be needed and start the process as early as possible.

Can you get a grant towards a stairlift or other equipment around the house?
There is help available to help you stay in your home as long as possible although it varies across the country and is different in Scotland for example – many services for the older person is usually means tested and you will be required almost always to contribute to the purchase of equipment or provision of a carer if you meet the criteria.

The Disabilities facilities Grant (DFG) grant can help, for example, to pay for a ramp and handrails (or a step lift), to widen doorways or replace a bath with a shower.  The grant is “means tested” and your income and savings will be taken into account to decide whether or not a grant can be paid and what level of contribution (if any) you would need to find.  You can apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant (or DFG) as an owner, a tenant or as a landlord of a property.

The grants can cover stairlifts or alterations to your home but the amount awarded will vary from and so you will need to ask your local council for advice. An occupational Therapist is normally used to assess the necessity and practicality of any adaptation before a grant is awarded. They will also give good advice on what you need and will work most effectively. This sort of advice is really useful and can save you £’s and a lot of time installing something that will not do the job for you.

How does a stairlift work?
Stairlifts are run by battery charged directly whilst in their locking position. They are not noisy and include hand or pedal controls. They will include 2 remote controls one you should keep at the bottom of that stairs and one at the top so that wherever you are you could call the stairlift to you.  They all have a rotating seat that locks into position once you are moving, which is at very, very slow speeds and should always be a smooth ride. They have a rotating seat that swings out when you need to sit down or get off but locks into position as you travel up and down the stairs.

The seat and armrest fold up when not in use so they are not in the way of able-bodied people who can use the stairs. Many safety features are installed to ensure there are no accidents.

Getting on and off the stairlift is a very important manoeuvre and it is essential that the Stairlift is installed correctly ensuring you are able to do this without any discomfort and as safely as possible. Choosing the right type of Stairlift is therefore very important as well. An Occupational Therapist can advise and of course any of the firm selling Stairlifts will always be expected to give good advice on what’s best for you.

Private purchase of equipment
Before making any decisions about buying equipment, or making alterations, it is advisable to contact a community Occupational Therapist (OT), usually based at your local social services/social work department, who will advise on your requirements and will be able to suggest possible and practical solutions. Especially if you are infirm or maybe suffer from Arthritis the OT’s have lots of experience about what works and what doesn’t.

Usually they will also have some latest information on the availability of Disabled Facilities Grants and any other grants that may suit older persons requirements. Advice on design and access issues is available from the Disabled Living Foundation Centre for Accessible Environments who also maintain a database of architects and surveyors with experience of design for disability.

You can also arrange a visit to one of the disabled living centres, which will have a range of equipment on display, and from where you will be able to get advice and information on what may be most suitable for you. For details of your nearest centre contact the Disabled Living Centres Council.

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