There is no doubt that having a stair lift in your home can dramatically improve your quality of life. If you are starting to find that climbing the stairs is becoming a hazardous experience, or just hard work, then a stair lift could be the answer. Another solution could be to move to a single storey residence. However, this can be expensive and stressful, and many people are reluctant to leave a house that they have spent many years turning into a home.

Once you start considering the possibility of having a stair lift, you begin to delve into what can be a highly technical area. However sure you are of what you want, I strongly recommend that you take professional advice from someone with experience in this field. In most areas, informed advice is available from community occupational therapists (OT's). You will also need to make contact with a company who specialises in installing stair lifts. I would advise that you contact at least 3 companies because there can be a huge difference in price and quality. Unfortunately, as the populations average age increases, more and more unscrupulous traders have entered the market and you need to make sure that you are not being ripped off.

If possible visit a demonstration centre and try a stair lift yourself. A stair lift is not the answer for everyone. For example, if you are confined to a wheelchair, then a lift that goes through the floor would probably be the best option.

The technology involved in stair lifts has improved dramatically in recent years. A stair lift can be installed on 99% of stair cases these days. But remember, not all stair lift companies are equal, some are using technology that is several years old. My advice is to research as many products as you can and to get as many quotations as you can. Knowledge is power after all, and with a few sensible precautions before purchase, you can ensure that you buy the right lift for your needs for the right price.

Remember : Always get more than one quote and make sure that the products are 'like for like'

Try a manufacturer and a local supplier to get a price comparison.

Ask your local authority or Occupational Therapist who they prefer to use.

If possible have another family member or an O/T present.

Ask about maintenance costs, will they still look after your lift even if you don't sign up to an expensive contract? A reputable company will service your lift regardless.

Are the company approved suppliers? If not, they will struggle to obtain spare parts and their engineers will not be trained by the manufacturer.

An independent supplier can tell you about a range of different stair lifts without bias to one manufacturer.

Exercise caution if the salesman is pushing you to buy that day. Many salesmen start with a high price and discount to close a sale. A reputable company will quote the best price from the start.

If possible try a lift out in a Disabled Living Centre showroom. A stair lift is not suitable for everyone.

Do as much research as possible, there are many companies in this industry who sell at highly inflated prices.

Christian Dunnage is a director of Dolphin Mobility Ltd, a UK based independent supplier of stair lifts, wheelchair lifts and mobility products.

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