Geriatric chairs, or Geri chairs, are specialized reclining chairs for seniors who require more support or versatility than a conventional wheelchair or regular chair can provide. There are dozens of chairs to choose from; deciding what is best for you or a loved one will take some research. The type of chair you need now could change over time, so evaluate future needs when deciding on the best chair. The options for chairs for seniors continue to expand.
Conditions that can contribute to the need for a Geri chair are:
- Mobility problems due to general decline, surgery, or dementia
- Poor strength and endurance may inhibit one’s ability to get in and out of bed or a regular chair safely
- Insufficient blood flow to the lower extremities necessitates the need for a chair that lifts the legs above the heart.
A Geri chair alone may only meet some of the needs of a senior with mobility challenges. You may still want a wheelchair or walker along with a Geri chair. A physical therapist can assist you in assessing what equipment you or a loved one needs to remain as safe and independent as possible.
5 Types of Geri Chairs
Not every Geri chair will have the same features or even material. Some, for example, are cloth fabric, and others are a leather-type material for easier cleaning. Some chairs have multiple positions (a 3-position recline chair is the most common) and some don’t. Here are the types of chairs you can expect to find when looking for a Geri chair.
1) Zero Gravity Chair
A zero-gravity chair is a recliner that suspends the body so that your feet are above your heart. The chair puts the body in a neutral position that reduces the effects of gravity. This chair can take pressure off the back and pelvic area, providing pain relief.
2) Infinite Position Chair
An infinite-position lift chair has two motors that allow you to operate the footrest and backrest separately. The chair can lay completely flat, placing you in the zero gravity position. Many people find they can sleep well in an infinite-position chair.
3) Three Position Geri Chairs
A three-position Geri chair recliner can be upright, in a deep recline, or with the leg rest/footrest fully elevated.
4) Lift Chairs
Lift chairs have a mechanism that lifts the chair base up from the bottom to assist a person to a standing position. Take care when deciding on a lift chair. Just because the chair lifts the person to a standing position doesn’t mean the patient has the strength or balance to stand safely.
5) Massage and Heat
Massage and heat are typically fairly standard options in Geri chairs, and are great for people who want the health and pain relief benefits of heat and/or massage on a regular basis.
How Can a Geriatric Chair for Seniors Help?
A Geri chair can significantly benefit someone depending on their needs, keeping in mind that if they get worse, they may require other features later. Most of these chairs are expensive, so take your time choosing and make sure to review the return and warranty policy before purchasing.
- Mobility aid: Geri chairs often come with wheels, allowing caregivers to move the chair easily from one location to another. This makes it convenient for the individual to be transported within a healthcare facility or around their living space.
- Comfort and posture support: Geri chairs are typically padded and designed to provide optimal comfort for individuals who may spend extended periods sitting. They often come with various adjustable positions, including reclining and leg elevation, to help users find the most comfortable and suitable position for their specific needs.
- Fall prevention: The construction and secure positioning of a geri chair can help reduce the risk of falls for senior or physically challenged individuals who may be at risk of losing balance while seated or trying to stand up. A lift chair, in particular, is helpful for someone who doesn’t have the strength or endurance to get up from a chair without assistance.
- Medical treatment and recovery: Geri chairs are commonly used in healthcare settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers. They can be used during medical treatments or for patients recovering from surgery or injury, providing a supportive and comfortable seating option during their recuperation period.
- Pressure relief: Some Geri chairs are equipped with pressure-relieving features, such as gel cushions or foam padding, which benefit individuals with limited mobility or who are susceptible to pressure sores.
- Sleeping alternative: It is not unusual for an older or disabled adult to have challenges getting in and out of bed. A high-quality Geri chair can be a reasonable substitute for sleeping in bed but with limited sleeping positions and overall width.
- Independence and dignity: By using a Geri chair, individuals can maintain some autonomy, as they can adjust their sitting position and move around without relying solely on assistance from others. A Geri chair can relieve caregiver burden and provide a safe way of moving and changing position.
How to Choose a Geri Chair
Choosing a Geri chair can be like any purchase- the volume of available products can make the search overwhelming. We have some suggestions of things to think about that will help to narrow your search.
One Geri chair may fulfill everything needed, but it also may not. Ask questions such as: Is the chair for transportation, comfort while watching tv, sleeping, limited daily use, etc? Will this chair’s weight capacity work for my needs? If planning to eat while sitting in the chair, will I need it to be compatible with a tray? Are drop arms important to assist with smooth side transfers?
If your loved one will likely decline, choose a chair to accommodate future care needs. Consider both a lift chair and a walker here is a walker option we recommend if both can be of use.
Ease of Use
For someone who will need to operate the chair independently, the simplicity of the remote control is a consideration. Does it light up and have easy-to-read instructions? Does the chair glide or roll for easy movement to a different part of the home? Evaluate the size and overall width of the chair. People can be surprised at their size and how much room they take up. Measure the chair and the space where it will go to ensure it fits.
Geri chairs can cost thousands of dollars depending on features and intended use. For example, a bariatric Geri chair will be much more expensive due to the weight capacity it needs to handle safely. Bellevue Healthcare has a wide range of Geri chairs for multiple uses and is a good resource for reviewing a variety of chairs.
You can reduce the cost of a chair by renting or purchasing a used one on eBay or even finding one locally. But keep in mind if you buy a used chair, you will save some money, but there is no warranty. Another way to save can be fabric choice. Many people prefer a faux leather-type material because it is easier to keep clean, but it’ll likely be more expensive.
We’ve found some options on Amazon in a variety of different styles and fabrics, all of which come in at or below the $500 price point.
Best Choice Products Electric Power Lift Linen Recliner Massage Chair
This chair comes in five different color options and is fully adjustable for the back, lumbar, and legs with three reclining positions. Adjust to your preferred position for maximum comfort by transitioning between a reclined & lifted position, a lifted leg rest, or a lifted chair position. Additionally, this chair is equipped with a USB port, cupholders, easy-to-reach buttons, convenient side pockets, two heat settings, and three massage modes to fully customize your experience! It gets 4.2 stars overall on Amazon and is priced around $430.
- DEPENDABLE COMFORT: This versatile power lift recliner chair is the perfect choice for a mainstay in your living space, with built-in cupholders that allow for further lounging convenience
- POWER LIFT DESIGN: Operating this chair is made easy with adjustment functions that work at the push of a button; an easy-to-reach button on the side lets you tilt forward or recline
CDCASA Power Lift Recliner Chair
This chair comes in five different fabric options and one faux leather option and is the lowest-priced option on our list, coming in at around $350. The company claims it’s straightforward to assemble as it comes in only two boxes with no additional tools needed, and hundreds of reviewers agreed it was an easy setup process taking about 15 minutes on average. This chair also boasts the ability to heat, massage, and recline into many adjustable positions, and comes with side pockets, cup holders, and USB ports.
- 💺【Non-toxic Material】 - We insist on choosing environmentally friendly timber with higher production costs. All wood boards used in our products are formaldehyde-free, conform to the P2 Requirement of California Air Resources Board(CARB). We committed to protect the health of the elderly who chooses our electric lift chair.
- 💺【Power Lift Assistance】 - Our powerful and UL approved silent lift motor, have better performance, the more quiet operation, longer service lifespan.Our lift chair can pushes the entire chair up to help the senior stand up easily without adding stress to back or knees. Our lift recliner chair reclines up to 150 degrees,smoothly adjust to lift or reclining position you prefer by pressing two buttons on the remote control, which is easy to operate for people of all ages.
MCombo Electric Power Lift Recliner Chair
This luxe faux leather chair comes with massage and heat options, 3 adjustable positions, 2 side pockets, cup holders, USB ports, and 8 colored faux leather options to choose from. The assembly of this chair also claims to be a quick 15 minutes, and the maintenance on this chair is low as the faux leather is easy to wipe down and clean. It gets 4.5 stars across thousands of reviews on Amazon and is priced at around $550.
Note that all of these options weigh around 100 pounds, with a weight capacity of at or just above 300 pounds.
- Power Lift Assistance: Counter-balanced lift mechanism with a TUV certified actuator pushes the entire chair up to assist the user stand up easily without adding stress to the back or knees, smoothly adjust to the lift or reclining position you prefer by pressing two buttons on the remote control.
- Easy to Assemble and Operate: Depending on the unique structure and wiring design, it's simple to assemble the chair, and also no tools are needed (about 15 minutes for a novice). You can adjust the chair to a lift or reclining position you prefer by pressing two lighted buttons of the new design remote control.
If you plan on asking Medicare to pay for a portion of the chair, make sure you purchase the chair from a Medicare provider and fulfill Medicare requirements.
Does Medicare Pay for a Geri Chair?
Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans will pay a portion of a Geri chair if you meet specific criteria. Medicare does provide some coverage for lift chairs, but a doctor must prescribe it for a medical reason. The motorized mechanism is considered durable medical equipment (DME) but not the chair itself (upholstery, cushioning, and frame).
To meet Medicare reimbursement criteria:
- A doctor must prescribe the chair
- The item, such as a Geri chair, must be durable (you can use it repeatedly)
- The Geri chair is needed for a medical purpose, and your physician must state that purpose
- The Geri chair is to be used in the home
- The Geri chair will usually last at least three years
- The chair is required to assist the patient with recovery or function
Medical necessity could include an assessment of these factors:
- If you have severe arthritis in your knee/s or hip/s or a neurological condition
- You have the ability to operate the chair
- You need the chair to stand up without assistance
- An assessment of your ability to walk with a walker after the chair has lifted you. You may not be eligible for a chair if you rely on a scooter or a walker for most of your mobility.
- Whether you walk once you are standing.
- If you have tried other treatments, such as physical therapy, that have not been successful in helping you go from a sitting to a standing position.
- Medicare won’t cover the chair if you are in a hospital or skilled nursing facility.
Other Medicare Considerations for Reimbursement of a Geri Chair
Reimbursement for a Geri chair can be complicated, so make sure you are using a Medicare provider and have met the Medicare criteria.
Medicare Part B costs
Medicare Part B is the portion of Medicare that pays for the lifting mechanism of the lift chair. With Part B, you must meet your year’s deductible and then pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for the mechanism. The remainder of the chair cost is your responsibility. You may have to pay for the total cost of the chair up front and then request reimbursement from Medicare.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are geriatric reclining chairs used for?
Geri chairs are used to encourage safe independence and provide pain relief and comfort.
How do you decide which chair to buy?
Start by assessing current and future needs, costs, and features. Prices vary quite a bit, as do things like overly padded back support for added comfort, recline options, overall width, weight capacity, whether it’s on caster wheels, has drop arms, is compatible with a tray, and is generally comfortable for the intended user to sit in.
Does Medicare pay for a Geri chair?
Medicare will pay for the mechanized portion of a Geri chair if ordered by a physician from a Medicare medical equipment provider. See above for more information.
What chairs are best for limited mobility?
Medical recliners and similar types of chairs with 3-position recline and lift options are considered the best chairs for patients, friends, or family needing extra support getting up, sitting down, repositioning, etc.
Amanda Lambert – contributing writer
Amanda Lambert is an Aging Life Care Professional and consultant with over twenty years of experience in the elder care field. She has worked in home health, mental health, and guardianship. She is a Care Manager Certified, Aging Life Care Professional, Master Guardian Emeritus, and holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Utah.