Stair glides are not just for people with arthritis or bad knees—there are many other conditions that can make it difficult or dangerous for people to walk up and down stairs safely. Unfortunately, falling down the stairs can result in serious injuries. For the elderly especially, falling and breaking a hip can mean months of hospitalization and rehab, and might even mean the end of independent living. If you are concerned about your loved one falling and their ability to live at home safely, here are some signs that they might be ready for a stair lift.
1. Increasing loss of balance
Conditions such as Bell's palsy and stroke can result in vertigo, which affects a person's equilibrium and makes them dizzy or disoriented when they're on pitched surfaces such as stairways. Going up or down can make them lose their center of balance and set them up for a fall. Climbing stairs with only one hand on the railing can also affect their equilibrium. Pausing more frequently to regain balance or turning to face the railing in order to hold it with both hands can be a sign that they can benefit from the stability of a stair lift; staying safely seated until the dizzy spell passes is a much safer option.
2. Loss of strength or coordination
Conditions such as Parkinson's disease or other neurological disorders can cause tremors and other involuntary movements that make it difficult to grasp railings and to grip them with enough strength to support their weight. As these conditions progress, relying on the railing for support can be more difficult and therefore more dangerous. If your loved one is losing the ability to grasp objects, can no longer grip things firmly or frequently drops things, these are signs that relying on the railing is no longer safe and that they need the stability of a stair glide.
3. Increased exercise intolerance
Breathing problems such as emphysema and COPD are exacerbated when sufferers exert themselves even slightly—even mild exercise like climbing the stairs can increase the heart and respiratory rates, leaving patients gasping for breath halfway up the flight. If it's becoming more difficult for them to breathe when doing mild exercise such as household chores, carrying groceries or walking to the mailbox, it's a sign that they should stay seated while climbing stairs and let the chair do the work for them.
4. Declining eyesight
Stairs can be especially dangerous for people who can't see where they are stepping or who can't see well enough to adequately judge distance. Even if your loved one is not completely blind, they may not be able to see the floor clearly anymore. They also may not be able to see an untied shoelace or other hazards. Frequent tripping and regular stumbling are signs that they can't see well enough to judge distance or depth accurately and that they need mechanical assistance to climb stairs safely.
It can be hard for people with these conditions to admit that they need or are ready for a stair chair lift, especially if they have never fallen. However, stairs in their home can eventually make it impossible for them to live independently. If your loved one has one of these conditions, talk to them about the risks and how a lift chair can make their home safer and help them live independently.