If you’ve observed your aging parents having physical difficulty at home while going about their routines (or you’re experiencing this yourself), then you already understand organically why a home assessment matters.
As we age, our bodies change. We can’t do some of the things we used to do effortlessly, and that applies to everyone (think of the need for reading glasses for nearly every 50+ adult, for example).
When age-related changes start to interfere with daily life, then it may be necessary to have a healthcare professional assess those changes and adapt the home for successful living in place.
A home assessment looks at the home and the homeowner together, as a working unit.
Typically performed by a certified occupational therapist (O.T.), an assessment examines how well people function as they use their familiar physical space. The assessment includes recommendations for modifying items in the home so that homeowners can go about their business of daily living – safely, comfortably, and with ease of movement.
Home modifications should be directly related to the physical needs of the homeowner. Working with a homeowner to make an assessment – at home, in person or virtually – gives an O.T. a good sense of the situation, so that modifications can ultimately respond to how the person goes about their daily lives.
Rachel Seltzer, OTR/L, CAPS, is the in-house occupational therapist at Ruby. She tells the story of a client who had recently moved to a 55+ community. However, she observed that some of the appliance placement in the kitchen wasn’t well designed for the target age group.
The microwave oven was set above the stove and relatively high up. The client had to stretch to read the touch-buttons. He would put one hand down on the stove top to stabilize himself and was constantly afraid of burning his hand. Seltzer also observed that if he instead grabbed the oven door handle to steady himself, the door could come open and throw him off balance, possibly resulting in a fall.
“We solved the problem by installing a shelf under some upper cabinets and anchoring a new microwave there, lower down and with easier to read buttons,” said Seltzer. “The previous microwave area is now an open-access shelf.”
Getting a home assessment by an O.T. who is also a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) gives you the best of both healthcare and home solutions. A professional with that training can tailor results that meet specific challenges now and in the future.
For example, a known safety solution is to install railings on both sides of stairs – grasping railings with both hands helps prevent falls. But an O.T. will ask, “How do you grip a railing?”
There are many types of arthritis and swollen joints in hands. A personal assessment will tell the O.T. the correct diameter for your hand; if you need (or may need as arthritis progresses) a small, oval-shaped railing top instead of a big round one; and if you need a textured surface so your hand doesn’t slip.
Home modification is not a one-size-fits-all approach. There are different needs for living in place at every stage of life.
You may want to accommodate a growing family of all ages, including an aging parent in a few years. You may need home modifications for a family member with disabilities. Or you may be empty nesters and uber-planners who want to remodel for anything the future might bring.
There are many design elements that are available for living in place and many solutions to remedy the barriers in your home.
“If you’re building or remodeling, just hiring a contractor gets you standard living-in-place design and install,” says Seltzer. “An assessment ahead of completion, or ideally as a component of the design, brings you more options for now and for your future needs. It’s often worth the time and money now to have safety and ease of movement in the long run.”
There are many different ways to adapt a home’s space to help lessen physical problems your parents (or you) are having. But with a home assessment conducted by an experienced O.T., you’ll have support for healthcare as well as excellent, personalized solutions to address home modifications.
An occupational therapist is the solution. To get started on an assessment of your home or the home of a loved one, contact us.
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