A lift chair is similar to a regular recliner. Both types of chairs can be used to recline your position or to extend your feet using a footrest. But there are also differences between a regular recliner and a lift chair. For example, a recliner is operated manually, but a lift chair is controlled by the push of a button. A lift chair has a mechanism which lifts up from the seated position to a vertical position, so you can easily get out of the chair.
Initially, a lift chair sounds like a fantastic solution for people who have trouble getting up from a chair. The lift chair mechanism does the work and takes the struggle out of going from sit to stand. But is that good for everybody?
Lisa K. and Jean Wendland, two physical therapists from Ohio, offer different perspectives on lift chairs.
Lisa advises her patients not to get a lift chair. Lisa believes that once the chair is doing the work that's involved with going from sit to stand, you stop using your own leg muscles -- and they just become progressively weaker.
Jean is less concerned about that issue but adds that the use of a lift chair varies on a patient-by-patient basis:
"It depends on the patient. Typically, I recommend lift chairs for those whose cognition and safety awareness is adequate to operate one safely. They're effective for facilitating transfers (that's the hardest part of functional mobility for a lot of patients). However, if cognition is a problem, there are those who will use the lift, then forget to extend their knees to stand, and end up sliding out."
Making Sure a Lift Chair Is Right for You
Discuss your interest in a lift chair with your doctor. If your doctor supports your decision to purchase a lift chair, check with your insurance to see if it is covered. Medicare has been covering the lift mechanism -- but things can change. Don't assume that it is or isn't covered -- check with your insurance when you're ready to purchase a lift chair.
To be sure a lift chair is right for you; consider how you would benefit from having one. Will it provide more comfort and help to relieve pain? Will it help you rise from the seated position? Is it important that you recline and put your feet up?
Since the lift chair will be taking some burden away from your leg muscles, consider consulting with a physical therapist to develop an exercise routine that will include strength training and range-of-motion exercises.
Your new lift chair should make you more comfortable and make it easier to get up. However, that's not to say that you won't need to work your muscles anymore. You must continue doing what you are able to do -- walking (even if you need a cane or walker), exercising, and whatever it takes to maintain strength and mobility.