Our Home Is a Potential Danger Zone

Carlos Briceño avatar

by Carlos Briceño |

Share this article:

Share article via email
main graphic for column titled

We live in a house with hardwood floors and three flights of wooden stairs. For my wife, Jill, who is gene-positive for Huntington’s, and our dog, this setup is a danger zone.

Let me explain.

The floors are beautiful, but they are slippery. We are reminded of how slippery every time our 13-year-old cocker spaniel, Baby Girl, runs in the house. It is difficult for her to gain traction, so as a result, her paws skitter along the surface every time she pushes off or tries to stop. It reminds me of someone trying to run on ice. Her back legs also slip a lot whenever she tries to climb the stairs.

Little did we realize that we also should have been concerned about Jill.

One night, as she was coming down the stairs while holding some laundry, she slipped and almost tumbled. Thank goodness she didn’t actually fall, but it made us realize we needed to find solutions sooner rather than later.

Recommended Reading
branaplam (LMI070) | Huntington's Disease News | FDA fast track | illustration of woman with megaphone

FDA Grants Orphan Drug Status to SOM Biotech’s Chorea Therapy

The next morning, we went shopping to look for items that would make the stairs and floors safer for Jill and our dog.

For the stairs, we eventually settled on clear, sticker-like strips of textured plastic called anti-slip adhesive treads. The texture makes it easier for one’s feet — or paws — to “grip” each stair.

Next, we had to find the perfect rugs. Because she has sensory issues, Jill struggles with certain textures, so we knew we would need plush rugs that felt soft. Although we found some, Jill looked sad on the drive home.

I asked why.

She said she realized that one day, no matter what home safety measures we take, walking up and down stairs will become extremely dangerous for her. As her Huntington’s worsens, the twitching, jerky movements of her legs and body, known as chorea, will make her extremely unsteady on her feet. Even a plush rug could represent a minefield given the poor coordination and balance associated with the disease.

We cried as the thought sunk in. We try our best not to think about the future. We try not to worry about how her life will change because of the devastating nature of Huntington’s. But sometimes, when reality hits, the sadness makes life seem overwhelming.

When that occurs, we let the sadness rush over us. We hug. We cry. We give thanks for what we have, and for what is not yet lost. And then we dig our heels in for the long battle ahead.


Note: Huntington’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Huntington’s Disease News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Huntington’s disease.


Scott Hooker avatar

Scott Hooker

Having the hardwood floors before a positive diagnosis of HD can be troublesome. We are in the same situation, minus the stairs. Throw-rugs are not an option for us because of a potential tripping hazard, but what we have found to work is the footie socks with grips on the bottom. No more sliding on the floor! We're open to other tips/tricks if someone has them.

Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

Jill has not tried footie socks with the grips but that is a brilliant idea! Thank you for sharing. I wish I knew more tricks, but if we find out more, I will write about it.

Rachel avatar


Hi Carlos, thank you for sharing. My partner (52, diagnosed about 8 years ago) and I also live in an old house with a steep, slippery staircase. To make it even more adventurous there is a bend 2/3 of the way up! :) There is a bedroom on the first floor and we always planned to use it when it became impossible to get up the stairs, but as you related, admitting that is very hard, so we still carefully go up the stairs together for bed.

Anyhow, I was wondering if you could comment on how well the sticky tape works out for you and your wife (and dog!). I've been reluctant to try it out of fear it would cause us to pitch forward when going downstairs rather than slip and slide. Sliding down isn't great, but I'm worried the tape would catch the foot and cause a worse problem. I may be overthinking it and would appreciate your real life experience.

Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

Your staircase sounds like a mine field. Amazing how simple stairs can turn into something so dangerous when you know someone who has HD. We have found the tape to be very effective so far. Try it on a couple of steps. You can always peel them away if they don’t work for you. Whatever happens, please be careful. Slipping and tumbling doesn’t sound like fun.

Pat Jennings avatar

Pat Jennings

After doing extensive research, I am getting a Harmar Pinnacle chair lift, sooner rather later, for my husband who was diagnosed with Huntingtons 5 years ago. Even though he can still climb the stairs, he is at great risk of falling and I always need to be with him. This wonderful lift folds to 11” when not in use, uses and attaches to the steps, not the wall. It is only requires about four mounting points for a 16 foot staircase. It runs with a Helicon worm gear which is stronger than other lift mechanisms and requires no oil . The track is narrow and does not impede use of the staircase. Maintenance is minimal. This is going to be the equipment that will allow him to stay in the home he loves and not disrupt our life.

Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

Wow, it sounds like you are happy with getting the chair lift. It is so important to have something that helps the caregiver feel like their loved one is in a safe place that they are comfortable in. Let us know how the chair works for you all.


Leave a comment

Fill in the required fields to post. Your email address will not be published.