We know that one of the three major market segment for aging in place is traumatic change needs. These manifest themselves in various ways – from actually experiencing the event, to being a loved one of the injured, or being a close friend, caregiver, or someone else interested in the well-being of the injured and their family.
Since everyone is considered part of the aging in place population, regardless of where they live, their age, or ability, it doesn’t take a traumatic event to suddenly move a person from a non-aging in place status into the aging in place category. We know that aging in place happens all throughout life without any regard for what the calendar says our age is or any type of infirmity or ailment we might be dealing with at the time. However, a traumatic event can certainly bring the whole idea of aging and aging in place into clearer focus.
Regardless of the injury, and whether a hospital stay or rehabilitation center is part of it, it is a wake-up call to just how quickly life can change – for us, our loved ones, and the clients we serve (present and future). Because of the rapidity at which life’s circumstances can change, we need to make sure that our dwellings and those of the clients we are honored to serve are able to accommodate total mobility and access. This includes doorways that can be entered when using a walker or wheelchair (because this might be necessary at some time), hallways that are wide enough to allow similar access, cabinets that can be reached and used (especially upper wall cabinets), bathrooms that can accommodate people using mobility devices, and entrances into the home that are open enough to allow free passage.
There are many features that can be included now in homes or used to modify them from current conditions to accommodate potential needs by someone suffering from a traumatic situation if and when such a condition arises. One strategy is to approach them with a universal design mindset. Thus is a great way to look at such improvements because we would be able to accommodate anyone (regardless of their mobility needs and whether they can propel themselves or require the assistance of someone else) to be able to use the living space well.
Traumatic change injuries can be very serious, even life-threatening. They also can be momentarily scary but relatively minor by comparison – as well as many areas in between. When it is a serious event, and the long-term outcome or prognosis is not known – or the recovery time – having a home to return to eventually that already is designed to accept someone who may not be walking under their own power and to be able to use every room in the home (bathroom, kitchen, and their bedroom, at a minimum) is a great relief for the family and potential caregivers. This is where we can have a large impact.
Not only does our universal design and our visitability emphasis, in creating a fluid solution for our homes and those of our clients, serve us well under normal conditions, they make our homes ready to receive anyone returning home from a traumatic injury (regardless of how serious or long-term it might be). We don’t need to wait for a “wake-up call” from a traumatic incident to send us into action or cause us to respond. That should be done now, pre-need, with the hopes that it is never needed for any type of serious traumatic condition but can accommodate the normal mobility and accessibility needs of anyone residing in the home or coming into it for a visit or planned activity.
Traumatic events can be stressful enough on all involved – that is part of the trauma. They are unscheduled, nonplanned intrusions on our lives and those around us that interrupt the game clock of life and put everything else on hold. Nothing else seems to be very important at that point except taking care of the injured person and getting them home as soon as possible to continue their recovery or their adjustment to their new lifestyle with a longer-term impairment. We put the rest of our lives aside to deal with the collective trauma we are facing.
We understand aging a lot more acutely as a result of a traumatic injury, regardless of how serious it is, and understand how we need to make our homes as safe as possible to forestall other injuries – even if the current incident happened away from the home. In turn, we are more prepared to create and implement effective aging in place solutions for ourselves and our clients (existing and future). Unexpected incidents have a way of capturing our attention and bringing into focus what we need to do to be ready for them when life happens.