This is the day we observe the significant sacrifices of so many n the name of freedom, In the United States, today is the day known as Memorial Day – the last Monday in May – although the traditional day for its observance is May 30th.
This is not a day we celebrate as we do on so many holidays and special occasions; however, we are quite mindful of those amazing contributions of sacrifice offered by so many individuals wearing the uniform of our country. In this sense we can celebrate that they were willing to offer so much – including their lives – to protect us – people they didn’t even know and likely would never meet or see.
The freedoms that are spelled out in the Bill of Rights are defended in battle against hostile enemies that would have us abandon those principles and subscribe to their ways of life. We have the freedom of expression, association, worship, thought, speech, and lifestyle. We have the freedom to live in our forever homes for as long as we like without being requested or demanded that we move into some type of assisted or subsidized housing.
Speaking of aging in place and also of the service of our veterans, we have a tremendous opportunity to work with our veterans to provide solutions for them. In many cases, the Veterans Administrations (VA) provides funding and direction for us, but it is not an automatic situation where we locate a veteran in need and then approach the VA for funding and concurrence with our design. Generally, it flows from the VA or the veterans themselves to us rather than the other way. We don’t initiate the contact, but we certainly can provide the solutions.
There are many service-related injuries that a veteran can return home with that weren’t present when they left for their assignments. Some are going to sensory related (vision or hearing, for example), and some are going to be mobility related, with the loss of a limb or extremity – sometimes coupled with a sensory impairment. Many are going to be confined to wheelchairs so adapting for this device in their homes is going to be a paramount concern. There also are various cognitive challenges that many servicemembers face after returning home.
Some returning servicemembers who were injured and lost the use of one or more of their limbs have been fitted with a prosthesis so that they can have a reasonable amount of normalcy in their lives. This does not erase the loss they have suffered, and it does not restore them to complete health. It gets them closer, but we know that they face challenges.
As aging in place specialists – especially occupational therapists, contractors, and designers – we have a tremendous opportunity to work through the VA to help get returning injured servicemembers’ lives back on track as far as being able to use their homes – whether they are living alone, with their parents, or with a spouse and children.
The first step is an evaluation to determine what challenges their home presents in terms of how it allows access or entry into the home, the width of exterior and interior doorways, door hardware that is used. the location and type of windows and how easily they can be used, the location and width of hallways and other interior passageways, vertical access in the home (stairs or steps) and how that needs to be modified or supplemented, how accessible and usable the kitchen is to move about in it and prepare and eat meals, the general bathroom layout and how accommodating it is for bathroom functions, sleeping areas as far as access and use, and other rooms such as living or family areas where other members of the family gather or TV watching occurs.
Once that initial assessment, home audit, or evaluation has been done concerning the physical issues the home presents, a second or concurrent evaluation needs to happen to consider the needs of the servicemember and what needs to happen in their home to allow them to take full advantage of their home almost as if no injury to them had occurred. We would look at how the home needs to be modified, how simple or extensive those modifications might need to be, and how quickly they can be accomplished to allow the injured warrior to return to some semblance of a normal home life.
We owe veterans a great deal, but fortunately, as aging in place professionals, we have the ability to help them get back to a reasonable lifestyle by modifying their home to provide for their needs. This certainly is true on a day such as this when we have a national observance to remember the contributions and sacrifices of our veterans, but it’s valid the other days as well.