Before we can undertake any type of home improvement for our aging in place clients, we are going to need to conduct a home assessment or home evaluation of some type. It can be specific to a need that someone is presenting or experiencing, it can be centered on a room or area of the home, or it can be more general in nature such as accommodating safety or accessibility concerns.
It can involve our observations and note-taking, primarily focus on a discussion with the client, or rely on what we note on a standardized evaluation checklist. There are various types of existing checklists and evaluation forms that can be used, or we can develop our own. Some are very detailed, and others are more general in nature. Some have a space for recording dimensions and specific notes about how the limitations are affecting the occupants of the home, and others simply use a series of check marks with little or no elaboration as to why the noted responses are issues. This is why we may want to prepare our own form that we aid us in doing the assessments.
The evaluation forms will help in establishing priorities – both in the severity of the issues present and the areas of the home that contain the most conditions that need to be resolved. From there, a plan of attack can be formulated and presented to the client. If a working budget already has been determined, the priorities will help align the budget with the pending work activities.
Interviewing the client is a great place to begin the evaluation or assessment. We need to learn what their concerns are. What is it about their living space that is not pleasing or acceptable to them? What is causing the challenges to the daily living activities? Where are the conflicts? Is it structural such as doorways being too narrow or the door swinging the wrong way for convenience? Are windows too difficult to open? Are stairs too step, too many, or too difficult to climb easily?
Do their needs cause us to focus on one particular room in the home such as the bathroom? For instance, is it difficult attending to normal activities? Is the space too limiting for effective movement in that space? Does using a walker or wheelchair make it hard to move about within the space? Is personal hygiene suffering as a result?
In talking with the client and then looking at the space to compare what they have expressed with what is observed, does what we see match what they expressed? To the extent that it does or does not, do possible solutions for what was noticed seem readily apparent, or does more thought need to go into suggesting possible remedies?
Does the client have a desired outcome in mind or is that left to us to determine? What should the space look like when we are finished with any solutions that we are recommending? If what we observe as being needed exceeds the expressed budget, and there are sufficient safety concerns that we notice, can we identify secondary sources of funding to supplement the budget?
Evaluations should also consider how long particular solutions are going to be required. In the case of progressive-based conditions where solutions are for more of a relatively short period of time before more extensive treatments will be required, does the evaluation allow for this? Is there a health care professional assisting in compiling the assessment? What is the role of the contractor in completing the evaluation? Is it a joint effort?
The evaluation is the cornerstone or foundation for suggesting and determining the work that will be done, so it must be given the importance it deserves. The success of the eventual modifications is going to be a direct result of the way the evaluation was completed and conducted.