Stair Lifts and Elevators for the Elderly

My 87 year-old father now requires the aide of a handicapped elevator in the home and when we go out. Do you have any helpful hints about these elevators?

Moira in Nebraska, 52

You have to plan ahead if your elder requires the help of a handicapped elevator when going out in public. Call in advance to make sure the elevator is in good working order. Also determine if it needs a key to be operated, and then be sure that an operator will be available with the key.

If you don’t call ahead of time, many things can go wrong. You may find a sign next to the elevator that says to call the operator, but there is no phone or phone number. There might be an arrow pointing you to a buzzer to call for help, and then nobody answers the call. Or, they might answer the call, but then they have no idea where the key to operate the elevator is, or the person who has the key is at lunch or on vacation. I’ve heard all of the excuses.

Stairway lifts and porch elevators are crucial if your elder needs help getting up and down stairs in the home. Many companies offer ergonomically designed stair lifts that ascend and descend three floors or more. If you are buying a home and know there will be a special needs person moving in, you should take these needs into consideration.

You also need to know how to operate the equipment if it gets stuck. This includes how to start and restart it, and make it go back up and down. Keep the contact information for the installers or service contract person handy in case there is a problem. You might have to remove your elder mid-stairway in a safe manner in case of a break down. This needs to be discussed before hand just like you’d discuss any disaster exit strategy.

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