Sarah Szanton

Photo: Tyrone Turner

Sarah Szanton

Human Condition
24th Heinz Awards - 2019

Sarah Szanton received the 24th Heinz Award in the Human Condition category for leading the development of the Community Aging in Place Advancing Better Living for Elders (CAPABLE) program, which provides low-income older adults with handyman services, alongside in-home nursing visits and occupational therapy, to improve health and mobility, restore dignity and independence and decrease health care costs.

Early in her career, Dr. Szanton observed that the challenges her patients faced caring for themselves and moving around in their homes were impacting their overall mental and physical health as much as or more than their medical needs, and were often a determining factor in their ability to age in place. In response, together with colleagues at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, Dr. Szanton developed CAPABLE, working from the foundational belief that home is where health is.

Through the CAPABLE model, a visiting nurse provides medical care, nutritional guidance and medication management, while an occupational therapist works with patients to surmount physical limitations such as strength or balance weaknesses that may be affecting their ability to bathe, dress and care for themselves. An assessment of functional areas of the home is conducted, and a handyman is assigned to the team to make the patient’s home safer and more accessible by repairing flooring or furniture, increasing lighting or adding mobility enhancements such as grab bars and banisters. The team works collaboratively with patients, allowing them to prioritize the goals they themselves identify as important to making their lives more fulfilling and meaningful, such as cooking or walking to the library.

CAPABLE programs have been established in 28 locations in 14 states, and recently the Physician-Focused Payment Model Technical Advisory Committee (PTAC), housed within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, unanimously recommended that CAPABLE be voted for consideration as a program covered by Medicare.

Note: This profile was written at the time of the awards’ presentation.

Each human has the potential for purpose at any stage in life. Uncovering this purpose and allowing people to accomplish the daily functional tasks provide each person the same chance of being able to work towards this purpose. That will elevate the human condition.”

— Sarah Szanton


Sarah Szanton, Nurse Educator Who Enables Independent Living Among Seniors - Heinz Awardee