Monday, October 9, 2017

"The Duct Tape Approach To Simple AIP Solutions"

Duct tape is one of the most versatile repair tools available. Arguably, it and a can of WD-40 belong in every tool drawer in the kitchen or emergency repair toolkit. It's not the tape so much that's the story but how it's used and the fact that so much can be done with it.

In one of the most popular "Mythbusters" TV episodes, the boys made a raft, hammock, and other survival implements from duct tape (with occasional other products used for support or shape).

Duct tape has gotten so popular that there are other brands of essentially the same product available, and it now comes in a variety of colors.

So how does this apply or relate to aging in place solutions? Are we supposed to look for ways to use duct tape in our clients' homes? No. It's about the creativity, ingenuity, and simplicity that a duct tape solution represents. That's how we connect to the story.

Sometimes we look for complicated, intricate, or expensive ways to approach an issue when a very simple inexpensive solution exists or can be found. Take the temperature in the shower. Maybe it's set at 120 or possibly even higher. That is too high to be comfortable for at least one of the household members, so we want to install a thermostat or an anti-scald device on the shower flow. That would certainly work; however, so would adjusting the water heater to 105. Don't worry about the dishwasher and the clothes washer unless they are older models. Most offer a heat boost to get the desired temperature for their cleaning cycles. Of course, some people launder in cold water anyway.

In the kitchen, visual difficulties often make it harder to distinguish the edge of counters and separate them from the countertops. Here, duct tape can be a solution. Rather than replace the countertop with a contrasting edge ("edge-banding"), an attractive color (not the standard gray) can be used and smoothed out so that it looks like it's supposed to be part of the surface.

Maybe there is a loose throw rug, runner, mat, or area rug - or one that has the corners curled to the point that a person easily could stumble over it. Of course, it could be removed, but it might be there for comfort or aesthetic reasons. Instead of removing it, the edge could be secured with strong double-sided tape so that the edges would remain in place and anything less than a very strong motion against it would not dislodge it.

There could be flooring (ceramic tile, concrete, or terrazzo, for instance) that is polished to a very high sheen or luster. On first look, we might want to replace it with something less shiny and easier on the eyes from the glare it produces. However, dulling the surface by removing the wax or using a matte finish could make the flooring much safer to use and easier on the eyes. 

We need to be careful, however, because sometimes the quick fix or the duct tape approach may not go far enough or may not completely solve the issue. When a grab bar is needed for entry into a bathtub or shower, it needs to be a substantial one that is securely anchored to the wall using the proper hollow wall or stud fasteners. A quick fix is a suction cup grab bar - get the job done in almost no time. As soon as the suction decides to let go, the bar comes lose or falls - hopefully, no one is grabbing it at the time.

When someone needs to rest or sit in the shower - as most of us likely would like to do from time-to-time - placing a bench in there will provide a seat, but it won't be anchored to anything. It thus has the potential of tripping someone or being kicked. A built-in seat or a fold-down one that is designed to be used this was is the better option.

Some solutions require the time to do them right. Others can be thought through quickly and just solved - often with materials or techniques already available.
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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place 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.