How can chronic care management be integrated into home design?

By: Jessika Toothman

Chronic Care Home Design Tips

I could've tripped on that horrible little throw rug and broke my hip!
I could've tripped on that horrible little throw rug and broke my hip!
Ralf Nau/Digital Vision/Getty Images

We've still got some more ground to cover if we're going to enable a home to be supportive of a chronic care patient. We hit some of the major rooms, but what about the spaces in between?

In the Hall, with the Wrench:


  • Some of the main pitfalls to avoid in this section are things that could cause someone to trip and fall. Items to keep a close eye out for are thresholds in doorways (especially if they are higher than half an inch or uneven), loose rugs and carpeting, as well as any clutter lying around. All flooring and steps throughout the house should be selected to decrease the chances of someone slipping. Hardwood floors are a good bet.
  • Hallways should also be wide enough to allow comfortable ease of motion for someone who is wheelchair-bound -- a minimum of 36 inches (91 centimeters) wide.
  • This is a good place to talk about height, too. Thermostats, light switches, door handles, outlets, you name it -- they need to be low enough for someone in a wheelchair to reach them.

The Secret Passages:

  • Stepless entry is definitely a good choice to make for chronic care management integration and for universal design in general. If your steps are there to stay, you may want to consider installing a ramp, in which case calling a professional to do the job is recommended.
  • Doors should be at least 32 (81 centimeters) inches wide and have door handles that are levers, not knobs. That goes for cabinets and closets too -- pick ones that are easy to grab.
  • The path leading up to the front door in particular is another good area to focus. Ideally, the front door should be visible from the street and have plenty of space for maneuvering around it. There should be a shelf or bench to set down possessions while locking and unlocking the door, and keyless entry can be a good idea. An overhang is also recommended, along with good lighting along the path and at the doorway. The path should be smoothly leveled and cleared of shrubs and debris. Texturing it can be a good idea, as well as installing motion-sensor lights and a way to see visitors before opening the door.
  • Double sets of handrails are good to have on all of your house's stairs, along with deep tread depth, frequent light switches and carefully planned landings. Reflective tape is smart to have on non-carpeted stairs, while carpeted stairs in different shades can be helpful. If you do have carpeting, shorter is better.

In general, when planning for the aging of an elderly person in a home, ease and simplicity are the way to go. There's a lot to be said for gutters that don't need cleaning, low-maintenance landscaping and a master bedroom on the first floor. In fact, even if the person is not experiencing any movement impairment, the best idea is to prepare the home so he or she can live comfortably using only the first floor, in case any chronic conditions worsen. Building a space that can be converted into an elevator shaft is also an option.

There's a lot more out there for people who're taking on the role of caregiver or looking to prepare a home for aging in place, so continue to the next page for lots of links to more great information.

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More Great Links


  • "Aging-In-Place Checklists." National Association of Home Builders. (7/28/2008)
  • Baldauf, Sarah. "Taking Care of Your Parents: Preparing the Home." U.S. News & World Report. 11/2/2007. (7/31/2008)
  • Canada, Carol. "Adapting the Home for Alzheimer's and Dementia Sufferers." CareGuide@Home. (7/28/2008)
  • "Chronic Conditions: Making the Case for Ongoing Care." Partnership for Solutions -- A Project of Johns Hopkins University and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 12/2002. (7/30/2008)
  • "Chronic Disease Notes & Reports." CDC. 6/2/2007. (7/30/2008)
  • "Chronic Disease Overview." CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. 3/20/2008. (7/30/2008)
  • "Current Projects in the Lab." Human Factors & Aging Lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology. (7/28/2008)
  • "Definition of Chronic Disease." 6/22/2004. (7/30/2008)
  • Edmonds, Molly. "How is an aging baby boomer generation changing the design of homes." (7/29/2008)
  • Edmonds, Molly. "How Smart Homes Work." (7/29/2008)
  • Jones, Brian et al. "Aware Home Research Initiative at the Georgia Institute of Technology." Georgia Institute of Technology. 7/17/2008. (7/28/2008)
  • "Survey Reveals Americans' Concerns About Living with Chronic Conditions and Desire for Elected Officials to Take Action to Improve Care." Partnership for Solutions -- A Project of Johns Hopkins University and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (7/30/2008)
  • "Safety in the Home." Alzheimer's Society. 1/2002. (7/29/2009)
  • The Aware Home Research Initiative Web site. A Residential Laboratory at Georgia Institute of Technology. (7/28/2008)
  • Trevey, John. "Design Techniques for the Homes of Alzheimers Patients." Disabled World. 8/23/2007. (7/29/2008)
  • "What is Universal Design." AARP. (7/30/2008)