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Hints and tips on buying stairlifts

No Comments 02 October 2010

Hints and tips on buying stairlifts

Stairlifts have been a godsend for quite some time for the elderly and disabled who have mobility problems. For those who have trouble getting around the house, stairlifts are a much more practical and cost-effective solution than moving into a bungalow. The other alternative is home adaptations, which can result in the rather sad situation of your relative being confined to the downstairs of their home.

Crowded stairlift market

Thanks to stairlifts, the elderly and disabled can stay in their own home, where all the surroundings are familiar to them, and which is near to their friends and amenities.

So, having decided that a stair lift is the way forward for your relative, which one is right for their circumstances? Well, the UK stairlifts marketplace is a crowded one. Around a dozen major stairlift manufacturers compete for a growing customer base – more and more of us are elderly, but living longer doesn’t mean that we don’t have problems with our knees.

Before you even speak to a stair lift manufacturer or retailer, we advise talking to anyone you know who has bought a stairlift. Ask them about the benefits they’ve experienced and the drawbacks, if any.

Contact as many reputable companies as you can so you can compare their stairlift products and prices. Remember that reliability and safety are the key factors.

When you’re considering stairlifts, don’t be afraid to grill the sales representative. After all, any sales rep worth his salt should know all his products inside and out. You should be able to talk about your particular staircase, physical problems and budget, and expect sensible answers.

Stairlift warranties

Ask for all the information you can get on the company and its stair lifts. Find out how long they’ve been in business. Make sure that they have full insurance. Can they let you see genuine customer testimonials?

What about once the stairlift is installed? How long will the warranty be for? Can you extend it and if so for how long? What’s included? Some companies will give a lifetime guarantee – but it’s only for certain parts. What about service and support? How quickly will they come out if the stairlift breaks down? Do they use their own stairlift engineers or is the service subcontracted, meaning you might have to wait for your lift to be fixed?

You should also research online about the stairlift companies – look for negative (or positive) comments in forums and in the media. You should also stay clear of cold callers selling you stairlifts and try to take each stair lift for a test ride in the showrooms before you make any decisions.
Selecting the correct stairlift will also mean considering the individual needs of the stairlift user and deciding which features will suit best – not just now, but in the future.

Curved or straight stairlift?

Once you’ve decided on a stairlift manufacturer, you’ll need to get your stairs assessed by a company representative. You should be aware that there are two principal types of stairlift ? straight and curved. Straight stairlifts are intended for stairs that have no bends or half-landings. If your stairs are perfectly straight, you’ll find the cost of this kind of stair lift quite reasonable.

If, however, your stairs have any kind of bend, corner or half-landing, you’ll need a curved stairlift. This is much less straightforward. It means that your stairlift will need to be custom-built for your staircase. This, of course, means that you’d better be sure that you need a stairlift, as it can’t go back to the factory. It means that your stairlift will be much more expensive than a straight one.

One slightly cheaper option if you would like to stick to straight stairlifts but have a curved staircase is two or more runs of straight stair lifts with a bridging platform. This does mean having two lifts, which means paying twice. It also means that you or your relative might be faced with more maintenance costs, as you will have the upkeep of two motors. This does, however, mean that you could enter the reconditioned stairlift market, thereby theoretically reducing your costs.

Stairlift sales rep

These days, you’ll also have a home visit from a stair-lift company representative. When the stairlift sales rep calls round at your relative’s, try to arrange for you or another relative or friend to be there, too. It’s going to be important to remember the information and to ask key questions.

The stairlift-company rep should thoroughly assess the staircase and ask pertinent questions about your relative’s needs, including how easy it is for them to get on and off the stairlift. They should be able to provide a quote in writing for the full cost of the stairlift, including installation.
When the sales rep is in your relative’s home, it’s very easy to feel pressurised. They sound very convincing – but that’s their job. Just because you’ve had a stair-lift assessment doesn’t mean you have to buy. Try to talk to as many stairlift companies as possible before making any decisions.

One great solution is to call an independent retailer like UK Stairlifts, who can give you impartial advice about the right stairlift for your relative’s circumstances.

Reconditioned stair lifts

A reconditioned stair lift is another option to consider. Reconditioned stairlifts have been owned by someone else. With a reconditioned stair lift, both the stairlift and rail have been refurbished. They’re practically as good as new, and will usually give your relative many years of good service.

Buying a reconditioned stair lift is a great option. That’s because most of the lift is brand new. You’ll get a new seat, new rail and a reconditioned engine. This new engine should be good for a few years. For those on a budget, a reconditioned stair lift will mean a saving of around one-third on the price of a new stairlift.

Whenever you see a supplier with reconditioned stairlifts for sale, do ask a lot of questions about the stair lift. At UK Stairlifts, we would advise also not to buy a reconditioned stair lift that’s more than 18 months old, to ensure it’s in tip-top shape. Make sure you get a one-year warranty, too.

Hopefully, you’ll have found this brief introduction to buying stairlifts useful. All the main stairlift manufacturers have comprehensive websites. However, for truly impartial advice based around your or your relative’s circumstances, it might be best to approach an independent retailer, such as UK Stairlifts.

Here at UK Stairlifts, we offer unbiased information – we’ve no axe to grind. All you’ll find here is impartial, independent advice about straight stairlifts, curved stairlifts, outdoor stairlifts and reconditioned stairlifts.

A woman rides the Levant Stair Lift, made by ThyssenKrupp Access. More information is available about this stair lift at tkaccess.com. ThyssenKrupp Access is the world’s leading manufacturer in stair lifts, residential elevators and wheelchair lifts.
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10 Useful Wheelchair Tips

No Comments 25 September 2010

10 Useful Wheelchair Tips

1.  Make Lemons Out of Lemonade – If your wheelchair is a lemon, does not conform to the terms of the written warranty, or the dealer or manufacturer is unable to repair it in the first year, you should check your states wheelchair lemon law.  You may qualify for a replacement chair.

2.  Rain or Shine – It is not necessary to stay home on a rainy day if you take precautions to protect your powerchair.   Cover the hand control with a plastic bag, but exercise caution when using a joystick with a covering on it.  Protect the drive motor by avoiding puddles that might splash or submerge the motor.  Common sense is the rule, sitting in a powerchair in the pouring rain waiting for a bus is not a good idea, however, rain should not stop you from attending to life’s daily activities such as going to work or a doctor appointment.

3.  Get in Your Comfort Zone – It would be nice if wheelchair seats were like our favorite overstuffed chair, but sadly enough they are basically not that comfortable. So, here are some tips on getting close to comfortable.   Width of the seat should be as narrow as possible without hips touching the sides.  A chair too wide causes bad posture, and affects chair performance.  Proper seat depth is tricky.  Too deep and you slouch, too shallow and you don’t have enough support and less stability.  A sling backrest with adjustable tension will allow you to sit further back in the seat, while a fixed backrest allows you to sit further forward.  Seat angle, commonly called “squeeze” is when the seat  seat has a permanent slope.  Seat angle helps keep your weight in place, and prevents you from sliding forward.  It is important to get the right amount of angle because too much can cause problems with discs in the back, curvature of the spine and pressure sores.  Most manual and powerchairs have a built in adjustment which will allow you to customize the seat angle. Seat cushions provide comfort, positioning, and prevent pressure sores.  The type of cushion you chose will depend on your criteria.  Someone who spends all day in a chair will obviously have a different need from someone who may just use a wheelchair to go shopping.

4.  All Work and No Play – For housework and cleaning, my advice would be to get your friends and family to do it, but that just is not realistic.  Learning to live with a little clutter and coming to grips with the fact that your house may never be as clean as it once was might help with some of the frustration.  Make sure that you have accessible outlets!!!  Try plugging the vacuum cleaner in when the outlet is behind the couch and you will see why this is so important.  Better yet, get a cordless vacuum!  If you need to mop, always start in the corner first!!   Cleaning the shower is easy with the new sprays that are on the market.  Pick up clutter all through the week, it lessens what you have to do during the actual cleaning.  Keep a reacher handy to get those socks that are hiding under the bed or items that may have fallen behind furniture.

5.  No Need for a Spare Tire – “Flat Free” tires no longer means made of solid rubber!  Technology has evolved to include a range from foam filling, to a poly urethane tread to a rubber insert.  So, the question is:  Which material meets your needs? Poly Urethane tires are used most commonly on manual wheelchairs.  They are highly resilient and fairly light.  The life span is 3 to 4 times of the traditional rubber tire.  Semi-pneumatic tires and inserts feature molded-in air pockets, much like the air pockets in the soles of athletic shoes, providing a slightly cushioned ride.  Found in forms ranging from poly urethane tires to inserts, semi-pneumatic tires never need air maintenance, nor will they become flat when punctured, making them truly flat-free. On today’s powerchairs, foam-filled tires, especially on the drive wheels, are the most popular flat-free solution.  The foam may vary in density depending on the required weight capacity.  Co-molded tires are most commonly found via powerchair casters and low-end manual wheelchair wheels.  Co-molded tires are especially useful as anti-tip wheels, where durability is more important than ride characteristics. Co-molded tires have an exceptional lifespan, but the entire wheel assembly requires replacement when worn.  

6.  Ball in Your Court – Being in a wheelchair should not stop you from getting out there and participating in sports.  Wheelchair users are now competing on a professional level.  There are numerous wheelchair sports associations. Wheelchair basketball was started over 40 years ago by the Veterans Administration as a rehab program.  It has grown by leaps and bounds and is now a sport.  There are over 180 teams across the U.S.  Quad Rugby is another wheelchair sport designed for quadriplegics who are unable to play basketball.  It is a mixture of basketball, ice hockey, rugby, and handball.  Power soccer is yet another great sport for those in an electric wheelchair.  There are many wheelchair sports accessories available including belts, harnesses, drink holders and special back supports.

7.  On the Road Again – For travel, first and foremost make sure that your chair is in good working order.  Take it in for a service check.  Be sure that your name and address are clearly printed on all removable parts.  Use sticky labels, and cover them with a piece of clear tape.  If you will be flying, be sure to notify the airline that you are traveling with a wheelchair. Airlines are required by law to stow your chair in the cabin, but don’t count on it if there are multiple travelers with wheelchairs.  An alternative is to gate check your chair, this will allow you to wheel onto the jetway where they will tag your chair and stow it in the belly of the plane.  Remove leg supports and seat cushion and carry them on board with you.  If you are unable to walk onto the plane, be sure to request an aisle chair.  Always check your wheelchair for  damage on arrival.   Be sure to do your homework ahead of time.  Check on hotels for handicapped accessible rooms, if you are going to be sightseeing, make sure that there are no barriers, arrive early at bus and train stations.  Wheelchair travel can be both challenging and and rewarding, and with a little planning, it will certainly be a adventure that you won’t forget.

8.  Stumbling Block – Nobody ever said it was going to be easy being disabled. Learning to cope with the mountain of little obstacles that are so frustrating is a major step in the right direction.  If you have diminished hand strength and function, use a wall mounted dispenser with refillable chambers and push button dispensing for the shower. This will eliminate the need for opening and closing bottles with wet hands.  If grasping a utensil is difficult slide a piece of 12mm hose over the handle. Outsource your toenails and get a simple trim at the nail salon on a regular basis.  Use a reacher to get at those socks from under the bed or behind the couch.  Don’t chase your food all over the plate, use a bowl instead.  Be sure to carry straws with you if you are unable to pick up a cup or glass. A 3 ft dowel with a rubber cap on both ends works great for turning light switches on and off, ringing doorbells, pushing buttons on tv or as a pushing or pulling tool. Put a thin cord through the hole on your zippers, tie to make a loop.  Be sure to join a disabled support group, as they are an amazing wealth of information.

9.  Play it Safe – Make sure that your wheelchair is in good condition at all times.  The top priority when considering safety are the brakes.  Be sure to check them regularly, loose brakes can compromise the wheelchair users safety.  Another thing to consider is stability and balance. Some guidelines to follow are:   Never lean forward any further than the length of the armrests.  If you do lean forward, be sure the front casters are facing forward.  Do not try to pick things up from the floor by reaching down in between your knees.  Do not shift your weight in the direction you are reaching as the wheelchair may tip over.  For ultimate safety, it is important that you be fully contained within the wheelchair.  A weakened arm or leg that occasionally drops to the side cannot be considered the ultimate in safety. Arm supports, as well as foot and leg huggers, help you keep it all together.

10. Live and Learn – Become a self advocate.   Being a self advocate very simply means that  you understand your own disability….you know your weaknesses and strengths, and you are able to convey this to others.  So, how do you get started?   Write it all down; your weaknesses, strengths, identify your disability, and what you need to do to participate in the things you enjoy, or need.  Find out your rights, The American Disabilities Act will spell them out for you.  Now comes the hard part for some…….Assert yourself, ask for what you need. What do you have to lose?  And finally, follow up, and make the change happen.

Living with a disability and being in a wheelchair means that you have had to make changes and adjustments to your lifestyle, but you can still stay active and enjoy your life.  With the above wheelchair tips, and a positive attitude, you can learn to thrive with your disability instead of letting it manage you!

AMS Vans has been providing wheelchair vans since 1998. Our handicap accessible vans are created with the highest safety ratings, the best value, and the lowest prices nationwide. Our handicap van dealer showroom is located 20 minutes north of downtown Atlanta in Norcross, Georgia GA. Drop in our wheelchair accessible vans dealership, or see over 100 handicap vans for sale on our website all about handicap vans, wheelchair accessibility, and accessible vans for handicap transportation.

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