We know that as aging in place specialists we cannot help people effectively as they desire to remain in their homes without a clear idea of what exists now, what their needs and abilities are, and how we might approach creating and implementing some solutions. These details begin with a home assessment, but this is not an absolute or consistent process. Often, they are subjective rather than objective in nature.
Assessments are the key detail for determining what people might need in their homes to live in them better, but there are many different types of forms, processes, and reasons for the assessments. This keeps it interesting. Much of the success of an evaluation depends on our background, training, perspective, and level of experience.
Many of us are interested in providing home assessments as part of our business plan, and some of us already have been doing this. Still, there are many styles, types, and reasons for doing the assessments – or evaluations or audits as they also are known.
Home audits can be requested or agreed to by the clients and paid for by them without the benefit of insurance or any other form of outside or third-party payment (although they may apply for reimbursement through their carrier depending on the type of coverage they have).
Home audits can be requested or ordered by a hospital, rehab center, or health care professional as part of the overall treatment plan and to ascertain how reasonable the home environment is to accommodate their client (patient).
They also can be part of an insurance determination where there has been some loss of structure or physical ability through an outside cause.
Regardless, home assessments, evaluations, or audits are the first step in determining what we have to work with in terms of the physical setting of the home and how the client relates to their space, taking into account their physical, sensory, or cognitive abilities as well.
Assessments can focus on safety within the home in several respects (eliminating hazards that might lead to falls or burns, for instance), physical details of the home as far as how up-to-date the components and systems might be and how well they meet current building codes, how conveniently located various controls and switches are. and general mobility within the home in terms of entering, maneuvering in the space, reach, range of motion, and accessing shelves, cabinets, appliances, and fixtures.
The assessments that we do may be a one-time service we perform, or there could be a series of them. When the client is consenting to an assessment to help identify safety or mobility issues in their home or improvements that could be made to some of the physical aspects of the home, they very likely have a limited experience with this. In fact, it’s quite possible they have never done this on their own previously. Therefore, the scope and price of the service must be consistent with their level of expectations and experience. Whereas insurance companies and health care entities do this routinely, the consumer does not.
As we decide what type or types of home assessments we want to do in the future – even if we have been doing them on our own or through an employer in the past – we need to determine what we want to focus on (the structure or the individual), who the client will be (the homeowner or tenant as a private pay), a third-party insurance entity or attorney who orders such services routinely, or a contractor who may need input from us in determining their overall scope of services (to the extent they don’t do this for themselves).
The two main forms of the home assessment, although are variations and combinations, are the home inspection type and the functional needs assessment. They can be done solely focusing on the home and its condition and status, in the first case, and the occupant or client, in the second. However, the functional assessment may overlap into the structural characteristics as a person’s needs relate to the interior space and how it is configured, the location of switches and other operational controls, maneuvering room, the condition of flooring and other components, the amount of lighting. the size and location of windows, doorway locations and openings, the presence of glare, the height of wall cabinets and shelving, and many other aspects of the home environment. Then, the functional assessment, in addition to looking at a person’s abilities regardless of their residence, will comment on how well the home environment allows them to participate well in it given any limitations they might have.