When we took the Certified Aging In Place Specialist classes and obtained our CAPS designations, many of us had specific plans on how we wanted to use our credentials. Some of us weren’t sure yet but wanted the training to be ready for when the right opportunity presented itself. Some of us wanted the information for immediate personal reasons to work with family members or close friends who needed us to have more insight than what we had previously.
In terms of how we saw ourselves professionally, there were several options. As occupational therapists, we could have planned on using the training we gained to help our clients in a clinical setting or plan on going into independent consulting (full-time or part-time) to conduct in-home assessment evaluations. As interior designers, we would be able to work with our clients with more insights into some of the issues that they might be experiencing now or that they may encounter in the coming years – and to understand the nature of those changes. As contractors and remodelers, we saw how we could use our talents in our existing businesses to redirect our emphasis in the types of solutions we provide or to start an aging in place-specific type with renovation service geared to serving these markets.
The same is true for any of the dozens of other occupations and professions who take the training to become CAPS certified – real estate agents, attorneys, non-profit and governmental organizations, handymen, carpenters, plumbers, roofers, landscape architects, building designers and architects, cabinet fabricators, kitchen and bath designers, lenders, other health care professionals, insurance agents and adjusters, assistive technology specialists, durable medical equipment specialists, in-home service professionals, and so many others.
Each of us has the option of (1) continuing to work within our companies and organizations doing what we did before taking the coursework only now with additional knowledge and perspectives, or (2) rebranding or refocusing the efforts and direction of our company (entirely or partially) to provide specific services and solutions for people who want to remain in their homes safely and independently, or (3) starting a new venture to provide some type of aging in place renovation, consulting, or assistive services to clients who can use what we offer.
To provide our services – whichever direction we take – we have a couple of alternatives. We can continue as we have been staffing-wise, meaning that if our business consists of just us as sole practitioners, we can continue offering our services this way. If we are employed by a company, or if it is our company and we employ others to help us, we can add employees to help us serve more people or provide additional services. There is another way that applies whether we are self-employed or part of a company.
We can provide sour aging in place services by connecting with other professionals to add the missing components to what we already have. We call this connecting with strategic partners or creating strategic relationships. It’s like having additional employees in a functional sense but not having any tax responsibility for them. As far as the clients are concerned, we are one large enterprise that is serving them effectively.
Our strategic relationships begin with us adding the professional services that we lack. If we are a contractor, we need an occupational therapist to conduct functional evaluations, relate to the client, interpret their medical needs in terms of an appropriate design solution, and help us relate to and communicate with them. We need an interior designer or kitchen and bath designer to help with spatial relationships, design, flow, materials and other aspects of preparing an effective solution for our clients. If there are mobility needs, an assistive technology specialist, an equipment specialist, or a durable medical equipment provider will be important additions to the team. If we need to create sealed design plans (primarily for new construction areas) to take to the building department, we will need the services of an architect. This list of potential team members goes on.
Whatever our specialty is, we need to assemble the skills and expertise that we lack. For OTs, in addition to adding the other specialties just outlined, this means we need a contractor, remodeler, handyman, or builder who can turn our design concept into a physical reality. For designers, architects, and others, the same holds true – we need to add the professionals who provide what we don’t offer to create the solutions we want and need for our clients.
By creating strategic relationships with other CAPS professionals in our marketplace, we become a very strong organization that can engage the marketplace in an extremely effective way – much more than we could on our own, regardless of what our area of expertise and specialization happens to be. By ourselves (and even with our company when this is the case), we have limitations on what we can do. When we partner with other professionals, that limitation disappears.