Wednesday, March 9, 2016

"Making Sense of Your Observations In A Home Assessment"

Home assessments are one of the foundations of creating effective aging in place solutions - whether there is a noticeable mobility or sensory condition to accommodate or not. Sometimes it's just knowing how people age and what might be considered best practices to use in addressing concerns before they surface.

Occupational therapists or physical therapists are invaluable resources for helping to conduct such evaluations because of the training they have received, the clinical experience they have, and the way they are able to relate to contractors and homeowners or renters.

When there is a medical or physical condition that requires some type of a response in the form of modifying doorways, passageways, kitchens, bathrooms, or other areas of the home, CAPS-trained professional should be able to respond with effective solutions. It's the subtle conditions or the ones that affect some people in the home but not others that become more of a challenge. Often, it's universal design which needs to be used to create the level playing field for everyone.

So, let's say that the homeowner or renter has noticed certain things that aren't working as well for them as they would like - reaching objects in the kitchen, for instance, or operating controls. Let's say that the contractor is using a home assessment form or just making observations and noting them. He or she notices issues as well, but may not appreciate how significant they are to the overall well-being of the occupants. An occupational therapist or other skilled health professional may notice aspects of the home that need addressed from a usage or safety standpoint.

That leaves us with multiple perspectives and not a clear idea of how to approach a particular solution - or if one is even necessary. There might be other, more pressing concerns to address in that home.

Depending on whether the home modifications being considered - for which the assessments are being conducted - are for general aging and safety concerns, as just a precaution for general remodeling, or with a specific physical condition that needs to be addressed in the renovations, the assessments will take on more significance.

Regardless of who actually conducts the assessments, noting more than just basic operational details such as one of the occupant of the home has trouble operating the light switches in some rooms or that opening a cabinet is an issue doesn't give us enough information to create or suggest a workable and effective solution. The AIP consultant, the OT or PT, or the CAPS-trained contractor should note specifically what it is about the features being flagged that need attention - and how. Then they can be included in an action plan and scope of services.

More than just knowing that a switch poses an issue, knowing whether it is the location of the switch, the type of switch, how the switch is accessed by the occupants, the degree of effort reuired or able to be exerted, and other such factors will illustrate what needs to be done to alleviate the issues. That is how observations make sense - through their interpretation and application to the specific needs of the occupants rather than just as abstract or out-of-context notations.


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Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.