Sunday, August 28, 2016

"Consumer Input Is Valuable - To A Point"

As we approach aging-in-place solutions for our potential clients, the best place to begin is with the assessment. This can take on a few different forms from personal observations, checklists, voluntary input from the consumers themselves as to what they perceive as a need, and our asking questions of them to determine what seems to be the issue.

Hearing what the consumer would like to have done is important and valuable - when they have the ability to express their needs. The issue is that they may not know the extent of what they are requesting, not realize how to address an issue they notice, or not understand that there really is anything that needs to be addressed. That's fine, we do. They may only perceive that their home is somewhat difficult for them to use without understanding why that is or that it doesn't have to remain that way.

That's the real caution of using consumer input. It OK to let them express their concerns and tell us what isn't working in their home to their satisfaction, what aids and helps in their home they feel would be beneficial, current areas of their home that are presenting issues for them, and things they would like to have done that they are aware of or just feel they need. Then we can make our assessment and recommendations accordingly.

We can give them a checklist and have them go through their home before we meet with them, but isn't that giving them too much authority in the design of their renovations? If they are quite aware of what needs to be done and how some changes that they are suggesting will enhance their lifestyle, they wouldn't need a checklist to document and express it - they would just tell or show us what it needed. If they don't know what they are supposed to be looking for or how to interpret what they are observing, how is a checklist going to help? Besides, they may feel that they have observed all that needs to be done before we arrive and be less inclined to let us help them do a more complete assessment.

None of us go to the dentist or the doctor (or mechanic) with a complaint and then tell them what is causing it (definitively although we might have an idea) and how to treat or alleviate it. We wouldn't really need to go if we had the ability to perform a complete and accurate diagnosis and then treat it. Sometimes we are capable of this and save ourselves the time and expense of going, but when we feel the need to visit the professional we expect them to tell us what is going on and not the other way. In fact, they may resent us trying to do their job.

Depending on the visual ability of our clients to actually see and perceive the issues that might be present, their mobility in being able to get around in their space and show us what is going on, and cognitive challenges that might limit and understanding of what is occurring, asking our clients for their help in explaining or interpreting issues they are facing in their home may give us a very complete idea of what they are facing or how we might want to approach them. This is where we will need to do our own assessment and maybe watch them navigate their space to observe what is occurring.

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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.