Arthritis and stairlifts: What you need to know when choosing a stairlift

By Chris Clayton

If you are struggling getting up and down the stairs because of arthritis, a solution to your problem could be having a stairlift (also called a 'stair chair') installed. But before you decide to buy one, there are few things you need to know to ensure that you make the right choice for you and your needs.

Are stairlifts suitable for people with arthritis?

The short answer is yes. Although the majority of stairlifts are not specifically designed for sufferers of arthritis, if you able to get up and down the stairs by yourself, then you should have no problem with using a stairlift to do so. But not all stairlifts are the same, and some will be better suited for your needs than others.

So there are a few things you need to consider when choosing a stairlift. If you don't, you could end up owning a stairlift which causes you pain to use.

Getting on and off them

The main problem for people suffering from arthritis is getting on or off the stairlift. Depending on where you are suffering the arthritis and to what to degree, it can be painful. If you have problems bending your knees or being in a sat position, the typical type of stairlift (where you are sat down in a chair) is probably not going to be the ideal option for you.

Fortunately, some stairlift companies provide a solution to this. A type of stairlift where you are not seated but you are in an almost standing/upright position. This type of stairlift is called perch stairlift.

If bending your knees is extremely painful (whether all the time or occasionally), I would strongly urge you to consider getting a perch stairlift. There's no point in paying for something which is going to cause you a lot of discomfort to use.

The safety belt

For safety, all stairlifts come with a safety belt (worn around the waist) to prevent the user from falling off them. If you have arthritis which affects your hands, the safety belt which comes with some models of stairlifts can be difficult to use (to fasten and unfasten).

So make sure to look at the safety belt on each stairlift model you look at if you think this could be a problem for you.

A foldable track

All stairlifts move along a fixed track/rail on the staircase. This track has to extend along the floor of the hallway at the bottom of the stairs. For most staircases this causes no problems, but if this part of the track obstructs a doorway or access to and from the staircase from the hallway, it creates a safety issue (either damage to the track from a something banging into it or people tripping over it).

In these situations, a solution is to fit a hinged track. This is a part of the track which is moved/folded upwards when the stairlift is not in use. The problem is that with some models of stairlifts, this has to be folded manually. This is not ideal for some sufferers of arthritis.

Fortunately, some stairlift companies offer the option of an automatic hinge (also called a 'powered hinge') which does the folding for you. Another solution is to have a curved stairlift fitted (a stairlift which has a track which can curve around the side of the staircase). But this is generally a more expensive option to go for.

So now that you know what you need to take into consideration when choosing a stairlift for yourself or a loved one, there is one more thing that you should do before buying one.

Try before you buy:

To make sure that you are getting the stairlift that is suitable for your needs, I would recommend that you try using a stairlift before you buy one. This is especially important if you are considering installing a perch stairlift. Although they are perfectly safe to use (you are secured with a safety belt), some people don't feel safe when moving up the stairs when almost stood up.

Fortunately, most stairlift companies when asked will arrange for you to try a perch stairlift (or any type of stairlift) that they have installed in the house of one of their customers. So before you buy, make sure you ask to try.