Power lift recliners can be an invaluable tool as your loved one ages, but as with any aid or device, safety should always be at the forefront when deciding whether or not to have one in the home.
With the comfort of a recliner and the utility of a motorized mobility aid, power lift chairs can be an excellent way for older people to maintain some independence even as transfers become more difficult. By slowly raising the person to a standing position, these chairs make transfers easier for those struggling to rise when seated due to:
- Balance issues
- Soreness and stiffness in their legs, knees or hips
- Back pain and stiffness
- Muscle weakness
- Low energy and shortness of breath
- Neurological disorders that limit movement
- Post-surgery recovery
Because these chairs also recline, they can be helpful to those who need to elevate their legs due to poor circulation as well.
“Don’t get one earlier than you need it because you want to use your muscles as much as possible until then,” Dr. Brandy Archie, OTD, advised. “When it’s challenging, get a lift chair so you’re not sitting longer than you want waiting on assistance.”
Of course, seniors aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from having one of these chairs in the home; there are also advantages for caregivers. By restoring some of your loved one’s independence, these chairs can reduce the number of transfers where assistance is needed and thus lower caregiver burden. And – by doing the heavy lifting – they also lower the chance of injury for you both.
Are power lift recliners safe?
When used correctly and properly maintained, power lift chairs are safe and comfortable for the vast majority of users. For most seniors and their caregivers, they can even be safer than traditional transfers, which carry the risk of strains and falls. However, not everyone is safe to use a power lift recliner independently, as injuries and deaths have been reported.
Cognitive deficits, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, can make it dangerous for an individual to use a power lift chair on their own, as they may forget which buttons to push and at what point of incline it’s safe to transfer out of the chair. Archer said those older adults can still use a power lift recliner safely but should have supervision.
“If someone is unsafe,” she said, “make the remote unavailable.”
However, there are some people who shouldn’t use lift chairs at all, even with supervision.
“The one occasion would be if their core isn’t stable,” Dr. Archie said.
She explained that without trunk strength, a person could fall forward as the chair raises them to a standing position.
Potential hazards of power lift recliners and how to avoid them
As with any recliner or motorized equipment, there are potential risks that come along with power lift chairs, such as falls, injury (and even death from improper use), fire danger from being too close to heat sources, tripping hazards on the power cord, and dangers to pets and children. Thankfully, most of these hazards can be avoided through basic safety precautions and common sense.
In addition to following the manufacturer’s guidelines, be sure to:
- Position the chair away from other furniture, walls, windows and heat sources.
- Keep the power cord out of the way so it’s not a tripping hazard.
- Keep items from falling under the footrest or blocking it.
- When retrieving fallen objects, unplug the chair to avoid injury.
- Do not sit or stand on the footrest or use it to move the chair.
- Don’t allow children to play on or with the recliner.
- Follow weight guidelines.
- Keep the chair in the down position when not in use.
- Have mobility aids such as a rollator, walker or cane within reach.
- Always ensure pets are out of the way before using the lift or lowering the footrest.
Archie also gave this practical safety advice:
“Make sure to get a chair that has a battery backup. Basically you want to make sure you don’t get stuck in the reclining position if the power goes out.”
While Archie encourages people not to use the lift prematurely, she also elaborated on what to do if you want to plan ahead:
“There’s nothing wrong with having it before you need it so you don’t have to struggle when the time comes. Just make sure to discipline yourself not to use it until then.”
Power lift recliners can make a huge difference in older people’s lives by extending some of their independence and restoring their ability to transfer on their own from their favorite chair. And while they can make transfers safer for both seniors and their caregivers, it’s imperative to always follow all safety guidelines and reevaluate your loved one’s ability to use it as their condition changes.