My mother had an Acorn Stair Lift fitted in August 2011. Below is an account of how it all went.

Acorn Stair Lift – the sales presentation

The first step was to call Acorn to arrange a visit from their sales person so they could give us an estimate. The sales person was a man in his 4os – very polite and used to dealing with elderly people. He began by looking at the stairs and briefly discussing the various options. We then went and sat down in the lounge for the full, slick sales presentation. It began with an introduction to Acorn Stair Lifts and a few questions to establish needs. The sales person then went into the full presentation explaining the features and benefits of Acorn Stair Lifts with frequent comparison to their competitors.

The price was not mentioned at all until right at the end of the presentation. The sales person said he had to take a few more measurements and suggested we watch a short video while he was doing that. We declined.

He then came back and sat down with his calculator and made various mysterious phone calls – was there really someone at the end of the line we wondered? Eventually, he came up with a quote of £5500 for a curved stair life due to the right angled bend in my mother’s stairs. When we gasped at the price, he then got on the phone again and made a few more calculations and then announced that he had a chair in stock that had been used as a demonstrator and if we agreed there and then to purchase, he could do the stair lift for £4500.

There was no pressure to sign of the line, but when we made it clear we were not going to make a decision until we had reviewed all the quotes, he pretty quickly left.

The follow up

A few weeks later, we received a follow up letter offering to fit the stairlift for £4500 again, which we ignored because we had actually decided to go for a Companion Stair Lift. That’s another story which will be covered in another post.

Deciding to go with Acorn

About a month after the original presentation and about two weeks after the follow up letter, we got in touch with Acorn again as we had been let down badly by Companion Stair Lifts. Acorn agreed to come and fit the lift in a few days.

Fitting a stairlift

We were given a time slot for the fitting and the fitter arrived 15 minutes late (although he did warn us). The fitting process took about four hours and was pain free apart from the drilling noises occasionally. At the end of the fitting process, the fitter gave us a demonstration and all seemed to be working. He then left.

Stair lifts for the elderly

Having a stair lift fitted for the elderly is a big issue. The elderly person is often reluctant to admit that they can no longer get up stairs without help and it is a very clear physical manifestation that they are getting old. It is critical then that a chair lift should function perfectly.

Teething problems with Acorn stair lifts

After the stair lift fitter had left, I was wanted to make sure the stair lift was going to work properly. So I went up and down many times to establish it was fully functional. All went well until my last test which was about ten o’clock at night just before my mother went to bed. The stair lift got stuck at the top of the stairs and I had to climb off awkwardly. I checked the fault diagnosis and the number displayed did not make any sense (Acorn Stair Lifts have a computerised fault diagnosis window which helps identify why the lift is not working). I tried to phone the emergency number, but had to leave a message as it was not a 24 hour service.  Meanwhile, we had to guide my mother up the stairs to bed, disappointed that the lift had failed to meet her expectations on day one. In the morning I rang again and Acorn arranged to have someone sent out that day to correct the fault. It was due to some misalignment and only took half an hour to fix – free of charge of course.  We have had no problems since – the chair lift has now been in place for three months.

However, the lesson learnt from this is make sure there is someone there (an abled-bodied person) to test the lift many times before leaving an elderly person alone to use the lift. Had it been my mother who had got stuck, she would have faced a very dangerous/probably impossible task of getting off the lift in its ‘stuck’ position towards the top of the stairs. The other option would have been to spend the night in the chair and hope that someone would call.

Review

Since the initial teething problem, we have had no other problems with the lift. It is easy to use and has been reliable. It is not silent, but not too noisy either. The speed varies depending on where it is on the rail – it goes faster on standard rail fitting and slower around curves. The is a point, just after leaving the ground floor, where you are lifted quite high in the air with nothing below (the lift curves round the banister at the bottom of the stairs) but the seat comes with a safety belt to stop you falling off.

The seat folds away nicely, although my mother tends to leave it set up ready for use. The major negative is an aesthetic one. We chose to have the lift on the banister side of the stairs rather than the wall because there was a door at the bottom of the wall site which would mean that the chair would block the door. The sales person had suggested a hinged rail to avoid this problem, but it all seemed too complicated as the lift would need to be parked up the stairs when not in use to allow access though the door. A banister side fitted rail seemed the best solution. However, Acorn rails have a good side and a bad side. The good side looks smart but the bad side shows the cog mechanism that enables the chair to move up the rail. My mother has see through banisters (like railings) which mean that the cog mechanism is clearly visible. Had the rail been fitted against the wall, this would not have been a problem. I believe this is not a problem with rails supplied by  other types of Stair Lift.