A personal note on Aging in Place

August 12, 2012 at 1:56 pm 1 comment

It is what I talk about all of the time; the importance of thinking about your home and if your home will meet you and your family’s changing needs in the next 5, 10, and 20 years.  It may be a need for yourself, or it may be that you have a child that sustains a broken leg due to a skiing accident, or an aging family member that needs to move into your home.  We are all temporarily able-bodied; will your home be up to the challenge?  Will you have enough supports in place to manage having to be cared for, or caregive for someone else?

These are questions that most people do not ask themselves until there is a need.  Recently, my Mom underwent major surgery, requiring added time in recovery and subsequently becoming deconditioned.  This led to a month stay in subacute rehabilitation.  As a family, it was decided that my Mom would be discharged to stay with my brother, temporarily, prior to going back to her own home.  Although it would seem easier to have my Mom come to my house (a universally designed ranch style home that is 2.5 hours away from her home), it made more sense for my Mom to stay closer to her own home, closer to her own doctors and closer to her friends and familiar supports by staying with my brother who lives 10 minutes from her own home.   I immediately went into full home modifications mode.

My brother’s house is a typical three-story condominium with a 180* short radius stairway configuration from the first level to the second as well as from the second level to the third.  The second level of the home is the main living area with a half bath;  Full bathroom and bedrooms on the third level.  Prior to this major surgery, my Mom has had longstanding issues with her knees and would typically only go up and down her stairs one time a day, as she is not yet receptive to a stair lift  (wink wink smile)

So, it was time to put my money where my mouth is!  My Mom was very active, ambulating without assistance or an assistive device, and independent with all activities of daily living prior to the surgery.  She made great strides in subacute therapy and was discharged to my brother’s home utilizing both a rolling walker and a cane.  Our plan:  put up handrails on the stairway, as there were none currently in place.  We measured the length of the wall space based on installation of the handrails at 35” above the finished floor (as this falls within the 34”-38” range).  The handrail height could have been determined specific to my Mother, but being that this was my brother’s home, and to meet the needs of future residents, we decided to utilize a more universal height, opting for the lower end of the range as my Mom is only 5’3” tall.  We purchased a basic handrail of 1 ½” diameter, and handrail brackets with load weight capacity of 500# from one of those big box stores 🙂      Most importantly, we installed the brackets into the studs to ensure that the determined weight load capacity would be supported.  Voila! She is able to independently get up and down the stairs and the handrails look like they have always been there.  Ideally, and what I typically recommend, is installation of handrails on both sides of the stairs.  However, as professionals, we have all instances where our clients are not always receptive to our recommendations and in these instances, we continue to educate about the benefits and plant seeds for future change  (wink wink smile some more)

Will your home meet you and your family’s changing needs in the next 5, 10, and 20 years?



Entry filed under: Aging-In-Place design, Caregiving, Home Safety. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Esther Greenhouse  |  August 18, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Thanks for sharing this real-life story. Glad your mom is doing so well, and that your brother was supportive of the improvements. This is a great scenario, where everyone was on board. I have a similar one to share…a few years, my husband put a handrail in his grandmother’s home, much to her objections. After it was done, and we had already left town, she called and asked if he would install another one on the other side. : )
    Lastly, we must all remember that handrails benefit all of us so they should always be there.


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