“The Ideal Time For An Accessibility Checkup For Our Aging In Place Clients”

People of various ages and abilities are gathering in our homes this time of year so it is the ideal time to assess how well our homes are able to accommodate them.

It happens every year at this time, as well as at several other times of the year. nevertheless, this is the time to focus on the amount of visitor activity that we (and our clients) are going to have in our homes.

Regardless of how we celebrate the various holidays at this time of year, or if we are just observing the end of the year and preparing for the launch of the new one, we typically are visiting other people’s homes or inviting or allowing people to come into our homes to celebrate the holiday season with us.

Sometimes they come bearing gifts. Other times, they will be bringing food or drink. They might just show up with themselves. Whether they are carrying anything with them is not important except that this could affect their balance, vision, and the way they approach and enter our homes along the walkway or steps.

Regardless of how people arrive and approach our front doors (and whether they are carrying anything with them or not), they need to be able to have barrier-free and unrestricted access to our homes. As aging in place specialists, we can’t be everyplace at once so we have to empower and rely upon our clients to be our eyes and ears for us. We should already have educated them about the accessibility and flow of their living space, but there’s no time like the present if it has escaped us until now. This is the perfect time to reach out to them.

If we can’t meet with or talk to them before the holidays begin, then immediately thereafter is still a good time to address such issues. After all, they aren’t going away on their own. We want to review with our clients how difficult or easy it was for people to come to see them and if there were any issues with sidewalks, steps, landings, the way the door opens to allow them to enter, access to the hallway or foyer, the width of the hallway, the way that interior doors open or swing, the ease of use of the bathroom, the relative safety of the bathroom, how easy it was for them to come into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee or something to eat or snack on, or how easy it was to come into the family room or a media room (to watch the game or a holiday movie, open presents, or play games).

Again, we can’t be everyplace so we have to convey to our clients the importance of monitoring their living space. Ideally, issues would have been noticed months ago and already resolved so this time of year would be a perfect experience for people coming to visit them. However, things may still require a fine-tuning before everything is reasonably perfect so this is an opportunity for our clients to observe how well the improvements were executed and to note anything that still needs to be tweaked. Then, we can come back in a few weeks and make those changes so that they are good to go from that time forward.

For clients who have not had anything done to date, this is the opportunity for them to note anything that’s out of place, anything that needs to be rectified or fixed, or any specific issues that their guests are having in using their home. Then, we can meet with them to discuss what needs to be done, how we would suggest approaching it, the proposed budget, and the completion timeframe.

All of the improvements don’t to be done by today because quite simply they can’t, but on a going-forward basis for future holidays and events – even for their springtime, summertime, next fall, or a year from now events – we can begin making these changes.

The first step is for the clients to be our eyes and ears and perform the assessments where we can’t. Let’s educate them about what we are looking for and give them the tools such as our checklists. We can have a discussion with them about what worked and what didn’t work so well a simple, focusing on perhaps a dozen items about the width of the hallway, the number of people who could be in the space together, general lighting, the ability for people to sit or open cabinets, or how well they could help themselves to food in the kitchen or on the buffet.

We then can come back and meet with them and have a longer discussion about what they’d like to see done differently, what didn’t work so well this season, what would they prioritize as their number top three issues to be addressed immediately, and then we can go down their list from there.

Their budget is going to factor into what we propose as well as the safety of themselves and their guests. The amount of time to accomplish the improvements needs to be considered. Some people may not want a large disruption in their home to address many of these activities so we might have to go with a simpler approach but still create a safer, more accessible environment for themselves and their guests.

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