For aging in place modifications, performing a home evaluation or assessment is the first step toward determining what a home might need and to achieve it. Using a checklist, assessment form, or evaluation sheet to examine a person’s living space and make notations about what is being done correctly and where there are shortcomings is a straightforward approach for getting started.
It would seem to be totally objective, yet many of the forms are written in such a way as to demand qualitative responses based on the person doing the review. For instance, a question might ask if lighting in the space is adequate – adequate by who standards? Is this determined by the people living there, by us doing the evaluation, by the time of day, by the activity being done in the space, or the type and amount of light fixtures? There’s nothing suggested in the phrase of adequate lighting of what is being requested in the review. Therefore, the answer shares little information and may address a multitude of responses.
A question asking if there is sufficient space to turn around and maneuver in a space again is subjective as the term sufficient is relative rather suggesting a specific definition. If dimensions were used and then applied against the space, it could be evaluated but this still might not give us the whole picture.
Looking at door handles, light switches, and windows for being easy to open and use can vary for someone with arthritis, someone with limited pinch and grasping ability, or someone of 80 or 90 years of age with less strength or range of motion as compared to someone who is on the high school football team.
So many of the assessment forms available rely on many qualitative and judgment terms that means they’re not going to be treated the same way by everyone. If the client was given a list and they were asked to note whether something was adequate, sufficient, plentiful, easy to use, roomy, or whatever other term being examined, they would answer one way and might even vary their responses by the activities they intend to do in that space or the time of day. We, on the other hand, could answer entirely differently anticipating how we think they might need to act or be able to use that space.
The point is that using a checklist to standardize our approach would seem to be a good idea, but there are so many terms that request a qualitative response and rely on our personal and professional experiences to answer. If we go the checklist route, we have to interpret the form and sit with the client and tell them what we discovered or convert or observations into a narrative to share and discuss.
Another approach, instead of the checklist or form, is to rely on our experience and to note what we see going on in front of us. While the checklist can provide a guide or a standard of what we want to look for, it’s ultimately up to our observations. When we look at the bathroom, we’re looking at the ability (for anyone but especially the client) to move about, to stay upright, to avoid a slip or a fall, to enter the shower area, to use the toilet, to groom by standing or sitting at the sink, and using other features of the bathroom in a safe and functional way.
In the kitchen, how easy and safe is it to enter, reach silverware, serving plates and dishes, glassware, pots and pans, and other cooking utensils that are stored in a cabinet and remove them to the cooking or plating surface and go from there? The same thing for clean up.
Looking at how someone travels through doorways and hallways, opens doors, turns on lights, or having enough illumination in a room to remain safe from walking into objects and being able to see well enough (to watch TV, read, use our computer or tablet, or perform other activities without straining our eyes) may be accomplished with a checklist. However, it might just as well be complete by doing a verbal analysis a notation and narrative of what we see in front of us, supplemented by pictures.
While it might be nice for the client to see graphically how their home is presented through a series of checkboxes, it may be overwhelming to them and that there may be somewhat of a disconnect as they look at the boxes. It could also cause them to be defensiveive about what we have noted or to feel that we are being over-critical of their living space.
A narrative that is easy to read and can be printed in a point size that is easy for their eyes to see and read might be very beneficial to them, and we can use our ability to observe and note what we see based on what we feel is the proper approach. This may give us a better outcome than checking boxes on a form and then taking the additional step of trying to make sense of those notes.