“We Can’t Expect Our Aging In Place Clients To Wait For Us To Get Up To Speed”

Maybe we’ve heard someone tell us as we were new to an activity or planning on undertaking a new endeavor to “fake it ’til you make it.” This might be good advice for some activities and may instill some much-needed confidence for us to attempt something we’re not that sure about or to overcome an initial fear or apprehension about launching a new project or venture, but this is a very poor idea for conducting aging in place services.

People today want the real deal. Moreover, they have every right to expect it of us. Often, they don’t have time (as in that many years remaining) for us to practice on their home and potentially endanger their personal safety. We need to learn on our own time – before we advertise or market ourselves and prior to taking on any paying assignments. We might do something for free, but even this is risky because our clients could actually get hurt by an ill-advised plan or design – or we could damage something by not taking the proper precautions.

As much as we want to deliver aging in place services – whether it’s from a design, assessment, consultation, or renovation standpoint – if we find that we aren’t ready or can’t deliver our aging in place services as we intend, we can either wait until we feel more confident or go a different direction.

On the job training or being mentored as an apprentice is fine for some pursuits, but in the aging in place services market when we are holding ourselves out as experts in this field, we are talking about working inside people’s homes and using their hard-earned savings wisely. We also must respect the history of their home and treat their memories in that home with respect – especially when they have lost a loved one that left their mark on that home. We have a fiduciary responsibility to them that cannot be undertaken on just a general idea of how to approach something. We must know what we are doing and have a solid idea of how to get the job done. We can have help with strategic partners, but we have to be able to pull our own weight.

This is a case of being more than just displaying confidence about what we say we can do or what we think we should be capable of providing for our clients. We must possess the technical expertise and the know-how to evaluate what our clients need (on our own or along with our strategic partners that we bring in to work alongside us), advise our clients about what works within their chosen budget (or help them in deciding on an appropriate amount that it will take to do the work they have indicated or that we have identified with them), prioritize the work if necessary to accommodate their budget, and then deliver our solutions in a superior way as we have described them. This is more than just a typical remodeling effort.

Our clients are going to watching the work that we will do unfold before them. They retain home field advantage and will scrutinize every phase of the project and how well we complete it. They have a very large stake in the outcome because this is their forever home. Likely they have already been in this home for several years and regard it dearly.

People want to live in their homes safely, comfortably, and conveniently – long-term. They need to be able to enjoy their home and feel secure in it. It does no good to agree with them that changes need to be made to create a more successful living environment for them if we aren’t the ones who can make those changes happen.

We might be the one who actually contracting for the construction of the project and ultimately responsible for the outcome. Then again, we might have another role in working with our aging in place clients. If we aren’t the actual contractors doing the construction, we generally will have some design or assessment input which is just as valuable to overall project success – and one for which we have to be totally prepared to undertake before agreeing to become involved with our clients.

Having our Certified Aging In Place Specialist (CAPS) designation before we get started is a great first step. Having practical experience in our field is essential as well. Our clients deserve the best. They have a lot riding on the outcome – regardless of what type of improvement it is – and we need to be up to the challenge.

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