A lift chair helps you both to sit down and to stand up. For sitting, it lets you bend less before your bum touches the seat. For standing, it literally lifts you to a partially standing position.
When you sit down on a lift chair, you bend your legs less than when sitting on a regular chair. When you stand up from a lift chair, you need less leg strength than you do getting up from a regular chair. So the lift chair offers both standing and sitting assistance. Lift chairs are also recliners. Some have massage and heat. Some are “wall huggers” that don’t require a ton of room in the back to recline. Some recline to a horizontal position, and some only to about 140 degrees.
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A lift chair is a seat that lifts you up and forward to help you to stand up. The chair moves your bum up and forward so that you are already at a partial standing position when you need to engage your own resources (muscles and coordination).
A lift chair is not necessarily a recliner, but almost all of them are. There are lift chairs that do not recline. They go from sitting up to lifting you up and forward. They don’t recline backwards.
Recliner lift chairs have all the features of a traditional recliner, with this extra movement that helps with getting up from a seated position. One difference between a recliner and a recliner lift is that the lift variety always electric. A manual lift chair would not make sense, as you would not be able to use the control and move away from that control at the same time.
They also help you to sit down, because you place your bum on the elevated seat cushion which then slowly lowers you to a seated position.
If you have ever had hernia surgery then you know that sitting down and standing up are both difficult. The lift chair allows you to use less of your core muscles when getting up and down. People often use recliner lifts after surgery rather than returning to their bedrooms. They sleep in the chair for a week or so while they recover.
The elderly often use lift chairs because our joints get weak and our balance gets worse. We need our knees, thighs and core muscles to sit down and to stand up. I strongly encourage anyone who can exercise to do so rather than rely on machines to fill in for what our muscles should be doing. But many of us are genuinely unable to get up or sit down. The lift chair makes doing this so much easier.
Does Medicare Pay for a Lift Chair?
Medicare might cover your lift chair as “durable equipment,” but there is controversy because some sellers abused the benefit. Check with your doctor and the rules before assuming Medicare will cover your lift chair. At a minimum, you will need to fill out this “Certificate of Medical Necessity.”
How to Research Lift Chairs
When looking for a recline lift chair, you might not find all the options because they’re sometimes listed under other names. You can search for the following terms that might help:
- Lift Chair
- Lift Recliner
- Lift Chair Recliner
- Two Position Recliner
- Three Position Recliner
- Infinite Position Recliner
- Bariatric Lift Chair
Battery Backup: Don’t Buy a Lift Chair Before You Read This
People with mobility or weakness issues should not use a lift recliner unless it has a battery backup feature.
Imagine you are in a reclined position in your lovely recliner lift chair. The power goes out. This is not like getting out of bed. You need to get past the chair arms while sinking into the cushions to get up. Can you do it?
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If you’re buying a lift chair to help with sitting and standing, then a power outage is starting to look like a miniature nightmare. You already have mobility problems, and you’re stuck horizontally in a comfortable but ungainly chair.
If this is you, then get a battery backup chair.
The battery backup is on the chair’s electrical cord. Most chairs DO NOT come with this feature. And those that do are usually the most expensive chairs. Very, very few of the less expensive chairs have this feature.
You could get an aftermarket chair battery backup if one is available for the chair model you use.. Unfortunately, these devices don’t have a great reputation.
I was so frustrated looking for chairs to recommend that had battery backups, I had to walk away from the problem for a while. My eyes settled on my computer battery backup device. It goes into action to keep the computer running if the power goes out. A ha! Let’s use that device for our lift recliner backup!
In my opinion, the safest and most reliable solution is to get a battery backup you would use for your computer. This will add $45 to $120 to your total cost of purchase, and give you the ability to get up from a reclined chair in a power outage.
I firmly believe that people with mobility issues should NOT get vinyl, leather, or fake leather recliner lift upholstery coverings.
Only fabric such as microfiber gives you the grip you want in a moving chair. Leather and vinyl are slippery. As people trying to stay stable, we don’t like slippery things.
Here’s the catch. The chairs that have battery backup also tend to be their chairs upholstered in slippery leather or vinyl.
A catch on top of that catch? The battery-backup-leather chairs are two to five times more expensive than the fiber chairs that do not have a battery backup.
That’s why I chose the fabric covered chair with battery backup on our “best recliner lift” page. It’s a low priced chair, covered in fabric, and has a battery backup.
It took me days to find that combination. I don’t know if there’s another one like it.
How Lift Chairs Get Power
A regular recliner will use manual or electrical power to move into position. Lift chairs are electric. There’s no manual lever to move into recline or up to standing. Put the chair near an electrical outlet, and be sure to tuck the wire to avoid making a tripping hazard.
How Far Recliner Lift Chairs Recline
Lift chairs recline from “not at all” to “180 degrees flat for sleeping.” The variations in between might affect your comfort, so I described all of them below.
Lift Chairs that Don’t Recline
This type of chair only lifts, it does not recline. You don’t need to worry about leaving space behind the chair for reclining. You also don’t get the benefit of leaning back or lying down in the chair.
Lift Chairs that Stop Along the Way
Stop motion chairs have one or two recline positions. You cannot stop and recline between or past these stops. You can sit up, or lean back to one of three angles. These chairs almost never have a 180 deg. fully flat recline position. They are good for leaning back but not for lying flat.
Lift Chairs with “Infinity” Movement
An “infinite” recline pattern allows you to stop anywhere along the way as you lean backward. You can lean back 15 degrees, 17.5 degrees, 45 degrees… the chair will allow you to stop and then automatically lock itself wherever you put it.
Some infinite motion chairs can recline to a 180 deg. flat position and some cannot. You just have to check the chair’s features to see.
Some chairs connect the back and the foot rest, and many people find this really annoying, so you should know about it.
When you have this design, you cannot move the back to recline without also raising the leg rest. You cannot raise the leg rest without also reclining the back rest.
You might find this to be OK for your situation, but be aware of it so you go in with your eyes open.
The Multi-Movement Lift Chair
On the other end of the spectrum from the stuck foot chair is the multiple-movement lift chair. As many as four spots can move independently in these higher end chairs. They’re higher end because if something moves independently, that means it has its own motor. Chairs with independent head, foot, back and lumbar movement have four motors just for these pieces. That’s on top of the motor that moves the chair to a recline position and to a standing position.
Zero Gravity Lift Chairs
A zero gravity lift chair is one that reclines to a 180 deg. flat position for sleeping. There is nothing zero about the gravity in this type of chair. You are still subjected to the same forces as you were when you were not sitting in the chair. It’s just a marketing term for “lying flat.”
The Best Chair Size is the One that Fits Your Height and Width
Recliner lift chairs come in varying widths and heights. The sizing factor is not just for comfort. You need to get into and out of this chair, so you want it to fit your specific dimensional needs. Every chair comes with a listing of its height and width. Think about how far your knees are from the ground. Imagine your back against the chair back. Will you fall into the cushions? Will your head rise above the chair height? Imaging yourself sitting on the lifted chair, and rising from that spot as well.
Recliner Lift Chair Weight Capacities
Most chairs I’ve reviewed have a weight capacity of 300 to 400 lb. Frames are wood or steel. I’ve even seen one that is iron. Steel is the strongest choice without being ridiculously heavy like iron. That is, unless the manufacturer uses amazingly good wood. If they did, the chair will cost thousands of dollars.
Lift Chair Space Requirements
Recliners and recliner lift chairs both need more room than regular chairs. Not only do they have length, width and height in a normal position, they grow when you put them into a recline position. Reclining chairs need room behind them to open up.
Lift chairs usually need about 22 inches of space behind the chair to avoid it hitting the wall when you recline.
The “wall hugger” models use as little as 6 inches behind them to recline. This design pushes the bum forward so that the chair back moves into the room as the seat back travels backward.
Soft and Sensitive Floors
Wood and marble floors can scratch just by looking at them. If you are worried about your furniture hurting your floor, consider putting the lift chair on a stabilized (rubber backed and adhesived) rug. Or put rubber on the chair’s feet. You are responsible for understanding that a reclining lift chair is a heavy, moving object on your sensitive floor.
Charge Your Phone but Not Your Laptop
Many chairs have USB ports for charging mobile phones. The chair is plugged in. The USB ports pull power from the wall through the chair to charge your device. In less expensive ($250-$500) recliner lift chairs, don’t expect to run a laptop on these ports.
Lift Chair Side Pockets
Many chairs have one or two side pockets for carrying magazines and remote controls. So your choice will be no pockets, one pocket, or two pockets. They are generally flat and will puff out of shape if you overstuff them.
Lift Chair Drink Holders
Most chair drink holders I’ve seen are shaped for glasses but not mugs. So if you’re having a cup of coffee or tea, put it in a drinking glass. Cup holders have plastic liners to accommodate moisture. However, they’re not foolproof. It is possible to leak some moisture into the chair through a pocket. So long as you’re careful, or use a napkin around your glass, you should be OK.
Recliner Lift Massage and Heat
If you’ve ever used an expensive massage chair, you probably experienced compression and pressure massage. Unless stated otherwise, recline lift chair massage is neither compressive nor pressured. it is more of a vibration of questionable therapeutic value. This doesn’t mean there are no exceptions. Just set your expectations and then look for better massage features if that’s your goal.
Having said that, recliner lift chair heat is an actual heat function that does warm the body from heating pads inside the cushions.
Lift Gate and Delivery Location
The driver who delivers your chair has to get it off the truck. If the lift chair is delivered in two pieces, the driver will probably not need a “lift gate” to get the chair from the truck to the street. But if the box is very heavy and bulky, then the lift gate might come into play. Trucking companies charge extra for “lift gate service.” Ensure your delivery doesn’t need a lift gate or that it’s covered with your payment. It’s unlikely to come up, but you should keep this on your checklist of what to watch out for.
Then the driver needs to get the chair from the street to your home. Does he put it on your front porch? Inside the garage door? In your living room, where he assembles the pieces for you? Ensure you know what the delivery options are. If you can get the company to assemble the chair for a small fee, it might be worth it to you. If you cannot get it into the house from the porch, you might arrange to ensure you’re home for delivery, and ask the driver to put the boxes inside your home.
How to Assemble Your Lift Chair
Lift chairs usually arrive in two pieces. They usually screw together with intrinsic bolts you tighten by hand. There is often no need for tools to put them together. This is the usual case.
That being said, some chairs do require screw/bolt assembly. And all chairs require you have the strength and dexterity to interlock the pieces while tightening them together. This is a job best for two people who do not have weakness or arthritis issues.
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