On a summer day in 2013, I made a decision to step out of my comfort zone and make a phone call I will never regret. After hearing about a terrible accident that affected a childhood neighbor, I had become a Caring Bridge ‘junkie’ reading the daily updates on Gary. While he was fighting to regain his independence, his wife was writing about his journey in such detail I felt as if I was part of the therapy team even though they were miles away. When it became apparent home going was the goal despite life changing disability, they made a decision to remodel a 1900’s farmhouse to meet Gary’s needs. I wondered how they could make so many decisions from across the state with such dramatic impacts on the future.
After reading the journal entries about the remodel plans, I decided I wanted to stop wondering and help ensure the end product would result in a successful homecoming. Sue took leap of faith trusting a random phone call from a neighbor she hardly knew and gave me the green light to meet a friend and contractor on site.
The dirt work had begun and the demolition was occurring the day I first went onsite. After talking about the goals and plans under a tree in the yard, we headed inside to evaluate the situation. The extent of Gary’s injuries and need for a tilt in space wheelchair for a lifetime meant standard handicap accessible plans would not meet his needs. The contractor had done a great job in planning the remodel, but some key items were missing in Gary’s success. We needed to consider the long term and needs of the caregivers, allowances for equipment to care for Gary, and future adaptations should his condition worsen. From the size of the shower to the ability to add a ceiling lift with a direct path to shower in the future, every detail was important.
Over 5 years later, it is beyond heartwarming to see Gary thriving in his home environment. He is a true testament to successful aging in place with a disability. Seeing the smile on his face when he arrived home was the pinnacle of my career. I had successfully put my skills to action and helped make a home accessible having never met Gary following the accident. Aging in place and quality home caregiving has kept Gary out of the hospital for 5 years! Additionally, it has saved them thousands of dollars. It was this project that started the fire within me to pursue my dreams. Thank you Gary and Sue for all you have done for me!
“When my husband, Gary, was rear-ended by an inattentive driver October 15, 2012 and sustained a neck and traumatic brain injury, I had no idea what our future would be. During hospital, rehab facility and nursing home stays for over one year, we returned to our 1904 farm house on December 20, 2013.
Having learned a lot during that time, such as what “total care” and “tilt space wheel chair” meant, I initially doubted we could ever return to our home with eight steps to climb, many smaller rooms and all bedrooms on the second floor. Our home, as most homes, was not made for someone with the special needs Gary required.
Fortunately, during our time away, Amy heard of our situation, contacted me and offered to help work with the builder and excavator we had hired to remodel our home. She knew of modifications required for Gary’s condition that I couldn’t possibly have realized with my limited knowledge. There are few people who can imagine the many details to incorporate into a remodel project for someone with special needs. However, with Amy’s OT background and passion for making people’s lives “livable” again, she really did make living comfortably in our home again a reality for us.
Builders can make a home ADA compliant, but there are so many more modifications that can be incorporated into a building or remodeling project that someone with Amy’s background can envision and suggest.
We highly recommend that if there is someone in your home who has or will have aging related needs or are faced with a sudden, life challenging injury, having a knowledgeable, professional, caring person on your team will help immensely. We know that from our experience working with Amy.