By Peter Wingrave, sales director @ AAT GB, the stairclimber people.
Stairs- they’re hard to avoid: of the 28.5m homes in the UK, more than two-thirds are houses of one type or another(1). But what if we suddenly, for whatever reason, can’t manage them on our own any more?
What are the options, short of moving home to a flat or bungalow? If your or your loved one’s inability to manage the stairs alone is only a short term scenario, that’s a drastic step! But you/they still need to access the bedroom, the bathroom.
In the UK we’re lucky to have a band of trained professionals- Occupational Therapists- who can assess your domestic situation and advise on little-or large- changes that will enable you or your loved one to continue to live independently, at home.
However, it takes time to access those services, and what one is entitled to will depend on one’s financial situation. There is also a perception that the solution- whether short or long term- is to move the bed downstairs.
But Is there room for it? What impact does that have on the rest of the family, your ability to still enjoy your home, your privacy?
That also assumes you have a downstairs WC: after all, we ‘go’ on average eight times a day. Holding it in can cause a whole further array of health issues. A commode addresses the toilet need but not health and hygiene- washing hands after, dealing with a filled unit, odours etc.
The optimal solution is to find a way for stair access to be overcome. And it’s not hard to do.
Equipment for loan
For small items, local Councils do have equipment stores, where an array of devices and aids can be loaned for the short or long term, and returned when no longer needed.
If you do not qualify for local authority support, some manufacturers and suppliers do offer a hire service for as short a time as a week (eg https://www.aatgb.com/hire-rental/).
Equipment stores provision to deal with getting up and down stairs includes devices such as stairclimbers: battery-powered kinematic “wheelchairs” that can climb or descend steps. See how it works here: https://youtu.be/VLzMr7vpcq0
Technology has advanced to the extent that the better stairclimbers can easily handle narrow flights, turns and even spiral staircases. When not in use, they fold compactly away to optimise the household’s ability to continue to live life at home without major physical impediment or inconvenience.
There does need to be someone around to operate it, but that person does not need to be big or strong, just ambulant and able. The reputable suppliers will support the OT and assess the suitability of the home, and everyone involved, to ensure it is appropriately set up for the user, that it is the correct prescriptive solution, that it can be used confidently, safely and easily, and train the person who will be operating it. (You can book a free, no obligation assessment yourself: https://www.aatgb.com/booking-form/)
If reduced mobility is going to be a long-term issue, the OT may well look at a more permanent solution. Usually this will be either a stairlift or through-floor lift. There is no reason why a stairclimber cannot feature in this scenario either- and for many OTs it is a valid prescription.
Pros and cons
A stairlift can be used by just the person who needs it. There is no need for a third party to assist. It does require a suitably strong structure on which to mount it. It also needs, stairs wide enough to allow it to track up and down and safely accommodate its passenger and their limbs, and for ambulant members of the household to still be able to use the stairs.
A through-floor lift requires a suitable floor area on both floors to accommodate the carriage and allow safe access and egress.
Both options also require a degree of control, strength and mobility to safely transfer on, off, in, out. This is particularly a risk at the top of the stairs. Even if someone is on hand to help, it is still a potentially dangerous situation- the slightest wobble or slip could lead to a fall down the stairs.
A stairclimber needs no space, but it does need an ambulant person to operate it.
It can however be used away from home too, or just help get you down steps in and out of the house, into the garden or out into the wider world…..
As a stairclimber includes a seat, like a wheelchair, there is no need to transfer on, off until the final destination- the chair in the lounge, the bed in the bedroom, the WC in the bathroom is reached.
Better providers of all these devices can- remotely or in person- assess your individual situation, and advise on the most appropriate option for their equipment, even adding postural support to ensure a comfortable, safe movement. They will also provide training, so you and your carer(s) know how it all works. AAT GB is the only stairclimber provider to offer free assessment. It also offers an option to hire a stairclimber if the need is only short-term and cannot be provided via the local authority.
Whatever equipment is recommended, under the Care Act 2014, you as the service user have the right of choice, over what equipment you have. It’s your choice.