Most aids you can buy to increase mobility are very purpose-driven and serve only to help someone accomplish a task; Wheelchairs helping someone with a walking disability getting from A to B, shower chairs allowing someone to clean themselves safely- even electric scooters, though many people fall in love with their machine, only exist for shopping and other travel needs. One product that is the major exception in the world of rehabilitation products is the electric lift chair.
A liftchair looks and feels like an ordinary recliner-chair, though with one important difference: at the push of a button the chair will slowly and carefully tilt forward (and elevate slightly) to allow the occupant to stand to their feet a little easily. This motion, which can be stopped at any time during the rise to accommodate various user heights and preference, takes almost all the pressure off the legs and hips come time to leave the chair. It also reduces upper body stress by removing the need to strenuously push on the arms of the chair in an effort to get up, which can easily result in injury itself.
Liftchairs are known by a variety of names- some people have been known to call them ‘lift recline chairs’ due to their secondary function: to electrically recline and lift the occupants feet just like a standard recliner chair. Although the lifting mechanism is by far the key safety feature and of this type of chair, the electrical reclining also assists in helping avoid the unnecessary strain faced when the user tries to push the leg rest back in with their calves.
Due to lift chairs fulfilling every need- entering, relaxing, and exiting- they are often used to replace an ordinary recliner. There are a number of different types, designs and styles you can choose from when purchasing a lift chair. Over the years it has become more and more common to find retailers stocking ‘import chairs’: liftchairs that are imported from overseas in an endeavour to keep the cost down. Imported chairs should not be frowned upon; they are usually warranted by large companies that put their name behind the product, come in a good variety of colours and fabric types and- most importantly- have a significantly reduced price tag. Also, as there are few moving parts in lift chairs, the failure rate of a chair no matter where it comes from is very low.
However despite the lower retail price associated with imported electric chairs, some people still prefer to have a chair that is locally manufactured for various reasons. There are still a number of Australian businesses that manufacture liftchairs locally- and even offer a customisable range of items so that the chair is 100% your own. Whereas an imported chair generally comes in 1 – 10 fabrics or colours, a locally produced chair is usually available in a far greater range. Leathers, vinyl’s and water-proof options are easily used due to the ability to choose specific shades in colours and the quality of the covering is usually of superior quality. A locally made liftchair often takes 2 – 8 weeks depending on the company, how busy they are and the type of fabric chosen.
Liftchairs gained some popularity in the mid nineties when country music sensation ‘Smokey Dawson’ endorsed the first mainstream chair of its type. ‘Smokey Dawson chairs’ as they were dubbed ceased being produced over 10 years ago now, and few remain in service today. Due to the limited market liftchairs appeal to it can be harder to source a showroom that focuses on this product. Mainstream chain-retailers often don’t stock these chairs (or have a very limited range) and don’t know enough about them to know what is and is not medically relevant. If you think an electric lift recline chair is an option for you or a loved one you may want to contact an Occupational Therapist and ask for more information.