How To Make Stairs Easier To Climb

Climbing the stairs within the home can be challenging for many seniors and those that are recovering from surgery.

Compared to walking, climbing stairs is harder because you must go against gravity one step at a time to move the body to a higher position. Thus, it’s not uncommon for individuals that struggle to walk to also have trouble with navigating a staircase.

This article will cover several ways to make climbing stairs easier:

Install an extra handrail

For those that have trouble lifting their legs to climb stairs, handrails can be grabbed and pulled for support so the upper body helps compensate for any leg weakness. Essentially, the strength in one’s arms helps to pull the rest of the body up the stairs.

In most situations, there is one handrail for support. To make climbing easier, an additional handrail can be installed so there is one available on each side. This allows someone to take advantage of the strength in both of their arms to support their climb.


That said, an additional railing may not be realistic in all situations. For instance, it may be an open concept staircase or there may not be any securement points for an additional handrail on the opposite side.

Use landings for breaks

Depending on the design of the home, a staircase may contain an intermediate landing between the main floor and second level. These small platforms can be used to a) change the direction of the stairs and b) allow someone to rest. 

If the landing is large enough, it may even be able to fit a small chair or stool to sit on. If this is not the case, one can still rest while standing, however this is less than ideal as the body consumes energy to maintain balance and stay upright.

Engage in an exercise program

Completing a home exercise program or conditioning regime to strengthen the muscles and boost endurance is an excellent way to climb stairs with greater ease. 

Ideally these programs are created by a physical therapist with rehabilitation expertise post injury, and have a focus on returning someone to their former functional abilities after deconditioning from a lengthy hospital stay.

Have a temporary rest break on the steps

If you start to have legs that feel heavy when climbing stairs, it may be a sign of poor circulation to the muscles and fatigue. While it is not ideal, rest breaks can be taken while standing still on a step in the middle of the staircase to help recover.

However, if this occurs too frequently, other assistive options should be considered as there is a risk of getting stuck in the middle of the stairs and being unable to finish the climb up or descend down.

Use a mobility cane

You can use a walking cane for additional help with climbing stairs.

Ideally, the cane should be kept in the hand that is opposite to an injury or weakness. For instance, if your left leg is more weak or injured, the cane used in the right hand for support.

This may not always be feasible as some stairs only have one banister to hold for support and it may be on the same side on which you would normally hold a cane. 

As a result, you may need to hold the cane on the same side as the leg weakness. While this is less than ideal, many people do not find this concerning as they are supported by holding the railing in one hand and the cane in the other.

Put in a stair glide

If modifications, assistance and rest periods are not enough to safely climb the stairs, a stair glide may need to be considered. 

A stair glide features a seat that moves up and down an installed track along the staircase to transport someone from one floor to another. The chair is operated by a remote control to move it slowly, and even functions on a backup battery should power go out in the home during an electrical blackout.

Furthermore, the seat has a belt that can be used to strap someone in and prevent them from falling. Other common features include sensors that prevent the seat from moving should there be any obstacles in its path.

Place treads on the steps

Modifying stairs for the elderly is an excellent way to improve a home’s safety. Treads placed on the stairs can provide better grip against the step and improve one’s footing. 


Treads can be installed easily with its adhesive backing sticking well against a clean step. This provides increased friction between one’s foot and the surface to reduce slipping and falls.

Get physical assistance from a caregiver

If other modifications have been made and an individual continues to struggle with climbing, how do you get an elderly person up the stairs?

A caregiver can stay on someone’s weaker side to assist with climbing the stairs. Ideally, there should be enough width to the staircase to allow two individuals to be side by side or slightly behind at a diagonal when climbing up. 

Many caregivers incorrectly ascend stairs while positioned directly behind someone to help push them up the stairs. This is incorrect positioning and potentially dangerous. For instance, if the person loses their balance and starts to fall backwards, it can also cause the caregiver to lose their footing and fall.

When caregivers assist someone up the stairs, the use of a gait belt is recommended as this device can allow for better control of someone’s body to prevent a fall.

CAUTION: Always consult a licensed occupational therapist or physiotherapist to determine if an individual is safe with stairs. These professionals can guide and train a caregiver on how to properly provide assistance with climbing stairs.

Declutter the steps

Stepping on objects sitting on the stairs is one of the leading causes of falls from the stairs. You may get injured in an initial fall, but also sustain further injury as you roll down the steps to the bottom of the staircase.

Decluttering the stairs to keep the path clear is a simple way to reduce the risk of tripping and falling.

Climbing stairs is hard enough without needing to dodge and avoid obstacles on the steps. For this reason, it is important to keep the stairs free of any clutter.