How to get an elderly person up the stairs

How to get an elderly person up the stairs

Come to think of it: As your loved one ages, mobility becomes more challenging even on flat surfaces.

And so, sooner or later, it will get to a point where your elderly loved one cannot climb up stairs, no matter how much they’d want.

That means you’re their only hope!

Question: What options do you have if you’re to safely and effortlessly help your aged parent up the stairs?

The good news is that you have quite a number of alternative means.

Read on to discover how to get an elderly person up the stairs using various safe methods..

How to get an elderly person up the stairs – alternative methods and specific instructions

Here are the methods you can use to get your senior up the stairs if it has become unsafe, difficult, or completely impossible for them to scale on their own.

Option 1 – Use a stair chair to carry elderly up stairs

The first of the numerous solutions to the challenge is to use a stair chair (a.k.a evacuation stair chair) to bring him up the stairs.

These types of chairs- the Aluminum EMS Stair Chair is our recommended model- are designed to aid the transportation of elderly patients up/down stairs and through tight spaces, safely and efficiently.

They work very well and come with helpful features such as adjustable straps (to ensure maximum comfort and safety for your senior) and slip-resistant grips on the handles (to help you grasp the chair safely as you maneuver the staircase).

How to use

Typically, the elderly person is secured to the stair-chair in a seated position with straps around his/her torso, waist, and the ankles.

The stair chair device is then pushed up the stairs, as if it’s a wheelchair.

For utmost safety and peace of mind for the occupant, it’s advisable to have two people assist in the operation.

The first helper takes up position right behind the elderly, grabs the handles firmly, and proceeds to drive the chair up slowly just like a conventional wheelchair.

Helper #2 should be waiting at the top to support the main helper negotiate the last step and subsequently help the chair land safely.
An ambulation gait belt is simply a long belt, usually made from thickly-woven cotton, and featuring a non-slip buckle (here is one we like).

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Option 2 – Use ambulation gait belts

I know it could be your first time to hear about it because it’s mostly a tool for professional therapists.

That said, it’s a practical alternative when it comes to aiding our aged relatives climb up/down the stairs.

So, how exactly does it function?

Well, the mobility support accessory fits around the senior’s waist while they’re climbing the stairs, assisted by a caregiver. 

How to use

Tip: Before you start, inform the senior you’ll be using the belt and reassure him/her that it’s safe and will be removed when done.

  1. Use your judgment skills to select the best position to place the belt.
  2. Now place your gait belt snugly around your elder’s waist, while he/she is sitting on a couch (or anywhere else safe) and fasten the buckle securely (the buckle should be in front).

Tip: If you have done it the right way, it should be possible to slide two fingers between the now fastened belt and the senior’s body.

  • Next, assist your grandma/grandpa to stand and walk them close to the beginning of the stairs.

Now, to help the elder walk while wearing their gait belt, stand behind but to their side.

Then grip the gait belt’s loop (on the back) and support them as they walk while moving at their pace.

Side Note: Gait belts are mobility assistive devices and should never be used to outrightly lift elders up the stairs.

  • Ask the senior citizen to hold onto one of the side rails and use a complementing assistive device (a cane is great here) on the opposite side.
  • Your loved one should step up starting with the stronger leg –remember that you’re still grasping the gait belt loop as earlier described. It’s important to instruct them to lean on the rail and cane for additional balance as they step up.
  • On landing on the first step safely, he should step up with the other (weaker) leg.
  • Lastly, the senior moves the cane up.
  • Stabilize yourselves and repeat steps 5-7 until you conquer the stairs. 

Tip:  If the elder begins to lose balance while you’re walking up the stairs, bring your body closer to them and try to steady him/her with the help of the gait belt.

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Option 3 – Use wheelchair to safely get an elderly person up the stairs

There will be cases when other methods won’t work and the wheelchair is the only logical way out.

In addition, your elderly friend may already be wheelchair-bound.

In these situations, you will need to get an extra person to help you get your relative up the stairs.


  1. Transfer the senior to the wheelchair and fasten their seatbelt.
  2. Grasp the handles and drive the wheelchair to where the stairs begin.
  3. Turn the wheelchair to have the back face the steps.
  4. The second assistant should hold onto the footrest’s frame while positioned in front of your wheelchair.
  5. Tip the chair (and your senior) back a couple of degrees.
  6. Start to navigate the steps- be careful because you’re climbing the steps backwards- with assistant #2 supporting you push the chair up.
  7. Go slowly until you complete the entire set of stairs.
  8. Help the senior disembark if necessary and possible.

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How to get an elderly person up the stairs- other options

Here is a highlight of other practical alternatives:

1.      Assistep stair walker (stair walker for elderly)

This stair assist for elderly consists of its own handy handrail and an ergonomically-shaped handle.

You lock it to the stairway handrail, and hold onto it for support as you ascend.

2.      EZ-Step Stair Climbing Cane

The unique cane brings their independence back for seniors staying or visiting houses with lots of stairs.

It’s best used with at least one rail/someone to help.

3.      Stairsteady

This sturdy handrail has a moving handle (coming off it) that slides once pushed to help you climb more safely.

It locks securely in place to offer somewhere safe to hold onto when taking a rest in the middle of the climb.

4.      Modifying stairs for the elderly

It’s always worth to consider modifying important staircases with stair aids for elderly such as the chair lifts for stairs. Read our review on the best chairs to carry seniors upstairs.

It can be costly but it can be a viable investment if he/she will need to frequently use the stairs and they crave more independence.

In some cases, you may need to remodel the stairs completely with the help of qualified personnel.

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The combination of your brain and brawn is the most important thing in determining the best method to use- of course, people are creative and you may come across other sensible solutions.

Whatever strategy you choose, be sure to read and follow the accompanying instructions to safely help bring the elderly person up the stair.

Also don’t forget the basics.

For example, rubber soled footwear is recommended for seniors when navigating slippery steps.

Likewise, for elders with poor vision, it’s important to install step lights.

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