Thursday, August 24, 2017

"Listening Between The Lines Is Effective For Gathering Information"

Evaluating or making an assessment of our client's home begins by observing what is going on inside and outside the home that might be affecting how the clients use their living space and anything specific to the construction or layout of the space that might have an impact on their lifestyle.

We can use checklists, questions, and direct observations to form a picture of what is going on in the home. As we visit our potential client's home and look around us to learn what is going on in the home and especially with them and others who occupy the home with them, we can form some opinions about what type of improvements and modifications might be necessary or required to make their lives better and more enjoyable in their living environment.

As we walk around their home and form our visual impressions of what exists and what might be missing for an effective lifestyle in that home, we consider the front yard and driveway, the exterior of their home, the entrance (including the porch or stoop, steps, and lighting), passageways, and the other aspects of entering and moving about freely within the home.

What we see and witness is a valuable part of our assessment and evaluation process, but what we learn by listening is as important. Asking questions and listening to the responses is as important as what we see and take in visually.

We have two very valuable and effective evaluation tools to use for learning about the needs of our clients - seeing and hearing. In addition to what we see, we need to rely on the questions we can ask and the information revealed by our clients in their responses.

Consider that the listening we do is similar to the photos we take while we are walking around and viewing their property. Their answers to our questions form audible snapshots that we can note and use in our planning as we move forward. Their responses also help us complete our worksheets by indicating areas to emphasize.

Of course, asking questions about what is going on in their lives, what they think needs to be improved, and what they think we can do to make their living environments better for them does us little good if we don't intently listen for the responses and incorporate them into what we decide we need to do to provide modifications and improvements. Otherwise, it's just so many words with little real accomplishment. The client gets shortchanged as well.

So, we ask, we listen - really listen, and we make notes. We compare and relate what we are hearing with what we observe. Then we are in a position to recommend and act.

We want our clients to reveal what really is on their mind. We are interested in learning what really matters to them and how their home fails to measure up to what they expect of it or what they need at this moment in their lives. Their home could have been ideal a few months ago or when they moved into it, but now it needs modifications to match their current needs - in just certain areas or throughout.

They might have sensory challenges that mean that visually their home needs to be friendlier, safer, and more accessible to them. They might need to be able to reach and operate controls and handles more conveniently. They may be encountering balance or coordination issues that create safety concerns. They may have difficulty standing, walking, or moving about in their home.

Some of what we discover may be apparent through our visual observations, but the more likely story is that this will be revealed to us as we ask and listen for their candid responses - our listening observations. They are seeking help, and we are seeking to provide it.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master 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. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.