To get started on our mission to create an effective aging in place renovation and solution for a potential client, we have set an appointment to meet with them in their home to learn as much as we can about their needs and how we can address them. We are interested in discovering as much as possible while we’re there to help us assemble an action plan that will provide solutions for them. We need to learn about challenges they are facing from both a physical or sensory nature and conditions in their home itself that may need to be addressed. We want their input on what types of improvements or modifications they already have thought of or envisioned.
We may have located this potential client and renovation opportunity on our own through our own marketing, or they may have contacted us through our website or social media – for those who have access to either one. They may have responded to a print ad or direct mailing piece that arrived at their home. It could be a referral from a caregiver, organization, case manager, social worker, or healthcare professional. It could be a referral from one of our strategic partners. The reason why we are sitting with the client – and whether it is just us or other members of our team also – is not as important as the fact that the meeting is happening. An ultimate agreement to provide a suitable solution for them cannot happen without this initial appointment.
So, as we are sitting in our client’s living room, or at their kitchen table, and enjoying a cup of coffee or tea, or perhaps a glass of water, lemonade, or iced tea with them, we begin to engage them and learn about their needs and what challenges or opportunities their home presents in accommodating those needs and requirements.
We tune our senses to high alert. Our eyes and our ears must be in a high-perception mode to watch for and understand things which are being communicated but not actually spoken in direct response to a question. This is a little like taking an open-book quiz where the answer is not spelled out word-for-word, but the information is found in the paragraph or picture caption for us to uncover.
We must be listening for signals that indicate a discomfort in their home or how they move about within it. They quite likely will tell us what they need in terms of a solution, how they perceive and understand their issues, as well as how they want us to help them. We just need to be open to receiving this information – whether directly conveyed or through body language or reference.
They might respond to a question we ask by a revealing gesture but not a verbal response – a shoulder shrug, a look-away, a glance at each other, a frown or scowl, a giggle, or some other telltale look. We might see signs of a difficulty in getting around such as temporary supports they have erected or created, marks along the wall where they have been supporting themselves, or worn spots on the floor where they have struggled to walk.
We may hit a nerve – something very sensitive to them – positively or negatively. We should be able to tell by looking at their response to a question that there is an issue going on behind what we have asked them. In terms of what they want us to do for them, sometimes buying signals are unspoken – a smile, a look of unexpected approval, a nod, an agreeing look between the parties we are addressing.
Sometimes, there are signals for us to slow down – a look of confusion, of moving too rapidly, of disbelief, of uncertainty.
It at these times when we sense – from what we are seeing – that our clients need clarification or an explanation that we need to pause and ask them what their concerns are. Don’t proceed until we get an answer that they understand what we are talking about and that they can discuss their feelings of it with us.
Rely on what we observe to guide the tempo of our presentation and ultimately what we recommend to them as solutions.