As we are evaluating homes for our clients and identifying what solutions we might want to recommend to them to increase their personal safety, comfort, and accessibility, each case must be considered on its own merit. No two cases are going to be identical.
There are no absolute rules or guidelines that must be followed or to which our solutions are measured, unless local building codes and inspections apply to what we are doing.
Initially, some needs that we are evaluating and interpreting may seem to be similar to others we have observed, but we must remember that aging in place solutions are created for the client and not to comply with any set of prescriptive guidelines that must be met. This is good. This is what makes us necessary. Otherwise, anyone who could follow a set of instructions or published rules could install the helps that people require – or at least give it a try.
Some people feel that the best way to make a home aging in place accessible is to install a ramp by the front door and to put in one or more grab bars in the bath. These may be good ideas, maybe not. It depends on what the client needs, what their general mobility issues are (if any), what their budget is, what items seem to be the most urgent or pressing, and what they might already have done in the past to make their homes more accessible or usable for themselves.
That’s why there can’t be any standard or unified approach to meeting aging in place needs. We might have our favorite list of five or ten items (or a different number) that we typically like to install or create for our clients – all other things being equal – but it still depends on their needs, desires, and budget.
While installing a vertical grab bar (safety bar, safety assist, or assist bar, if people don’t like the term “grab bar”) at the entrance to the tub or shower might be something we like to do most of the time, the client might already have one, might not agree with our approach, or might need something else more urgently. Thus, creating and installing solutions for our aging in place clients is as much an art as it is a science.
Too often people feel that they must have a ramp or grab bar installed before anything else can be done to make their dwelling more safe or usable. While such solutions may be indicated, we should not approach any home as if these are going to be the initial requirements and then proceed from there. While we might have a good idea of what people want through our preliminary discussions with them, so much depends on what we actually see once we arrive and their willingness to have the work done.
Our team – contractors (of many different sorts perhaps), occupational therapists, designers, and equipment specialists, among others – that we have assembled should be ready to create individual one-of-a-kind solutions for each client. While we might have completed similar designs for other clients, the reasons for doing so, the physical parameters of the dwelling, their likes and dislikes, their timing, and their budget likely varies – possible dramatically – from other clients we have served.
This is why there really can’t be – and shouldn’t be – any absolute standards or guidelines to follow. We should use our best judgment, best practices, and best solutions from those that we have available to us. Ultimately the client benefits because they get a design that is specially created for them and their needs. It is not one that we typically install just because we like it, have extra materials on hand, or where we make good money. It is based solely on their needs as we and our team interpret them and feel we can accommodate them.