Often before a project ever gets to the talking stage - and before we are ever brought into the discussion - the client and their family and advisors (close friends, neighbors, and people whose opinions they value) - will research potential solutions for their home. Whether there is no urgent medical need and the client is just looking for ways to enhance their space and provide more accessibility, safety, or comfort, or there is a progressive condition that needs specific modifications to help manage the way it affects and impacts the client in their home, they likely have researched many possible solutions for what they perceive as their need.
In most cases, they have time to do this. They can look online, research websites, call or email suppliers, visit showrooms, talk with distributors, contractors, and installers, get prices, and really do their due diligence in learning about possible solutions for themselves.
Rarely, is a solution so urgently needed that a couple of days can't be set aside to research it and learn about it before engaging a specific contractor to take it to the next step.
We don't expect that the client will have considered all of their possibilities or that they will have taken all of the underlying factors (personal needs as well as parameters or construction). Otherwise, they wouldn't need our expertise. It is good, however, when they have educated themselves to the possibilities of what can be done in their home. Of course, those with access to a computer and the internet are going to find this research process so much easier than those who do not have such access.
Traumatic events and changes can happen from outside influences or from something that we may have been part of causing. The results are not pleasant either way. As far as outside influences, there are unforeseen and unplanned car crashes where someone runs into to us or our clients. This seemingly could not be avoided and was a huge shock when it happened. It came from nowhere. There are falling tree limbs and building pieces that attack us from overhead. There are mechanical malfunctions that lead to serious injury - elevator or amusement ride failures, for instance. There are mass transit incidents on buses, trains, and planes.
Then there are ones that we should have seen as potentially dangerous but did not shy away from, such as falling off a roof or ladder, getting an electrical shock, causing a severe cut or burn in the kitchen or while barbequing, or using power equipment such as saws or lawn mowers or trimmers.
There also are just things that catch us off guard such as slipping on a wet tile floor or tub or shower base and hitting our head or neck, or injuring an eye or our face. This can happen on icy sidewalks or those with an accumulation or leaves mold on them.
There is no shortage of ways we can get hurt and hurt in a way that is considered traumatic - requiring an emergency room visit and likely hospital stay. Some are going to be life-changing. Some are going to involve a traumatic brain injury and loss of motor function. Others may injure some of our senses (sight or touch) temporarily or long-term).
Therefore, when someone is facing such a traumatic episode in their lives, their options for home renovations are limited and compressed. They don't have the luxury of researching their issue online and finding possible solutions. Even though they may have time to do so, their emotional state will hamper any such actions.
The point is that we don't plan for such catastrophic events. When they happen, the natural human response is to reset the clock to before this happened and to make it go away. Short of that, the client's family will say that they will spend any amount of money to fix the problem. Obviously, they don't mean this, but we understand their emotion. They are stressed and want a quick, thoughtful, responsible response that doesn't over treat the situation or spend money unnecessarily.
Steve Hoffacker, CAPS, 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.