Welcome to Collaborative Home Design for Seniors! Thank you for visiting my website. I hope it has been informative and that we may form a team someday.
As you may be aware, this website and blog is a portion of my project for my doctorate of occupational therapy. There are many areas of practice I could have chosen to address within my practice of home based geriatrics. I chose home design for older adults with the specific emphasis on interprofessional collaboration out of personal experiences while working in people’s homes. Here is why.
There have been numerous instances in my practice where my patients’ independence have been impacted by the physical environment of their home. In several cases, if the people designing the home or completing the remodeling had spoken with an occupational therapist, the outcome could have been different. Two specific examples come to mind as specific inspirations for this project.
The first example comes from the remodel of one of the assisted living buildings in which I frequently worked. The wood floors were being replaced, however, the new floors were so slick that I caught a few slipping residents as they walked into the dining room. This same building also replaced their carpets with thick textured carpets that residents could no longer push their chairs over, and installed a visually distracting carpet into the main living areas. The distracting carpet frequently caused freezing from the residents with Parksinson’s Disease and dementia. Finally, all of the fabric covered furnishings that were tall enough for people to stand up out of were replaced with lower chairs that were difficult for people, though they were covered in easy to clean vinyl.
The second example involves the bathrooms of private homes in a 55+ community. These bathrooms were comprised of two rooms; one with the shower and commode, and the other with the vanity and sink. The portion with the commode was not big enough to fit a person and their walker, let alone an aide if the person needed assistance. In addition, the toilet paper holders were in the exact spot a grab bar should go. Everyone would leave their walkers either in the vanity area or the hallway (there were two doors to enter the bathroom), and would use the toilet paper holder as a grab bar to stand. Whenever I had a referral from someone in this community, it was normally because of a fall, and 95% of the time, the fall happened in the bathroom.
I believe that had I been consulted during the design phase of these projects, the functionality of the space and the person’s safety and independence could have been preserved. I know how people complete their daily tasks within a certain environment and how the process of aging impacts a person. By the time there is a health problem that would require an occupational therapist for a home safety evaluation, it is too late for preventative measures. But, I do not know anything about actually designing and constructing a building, nor should anyone ask me to decorate a space to be both aesthetic and functional. As a team, however, we would be able to complement each others’ skills and provide an environment that is safe, functional, beautiful, and allows the person to age naturally in place with subtle supports built throughout the home.
Coming together at the start of the project and preventing falls and functional decline in daily living, thus allowing people to stay at home longer, and hopefully forever… that is my dream, and the purpose of this entire project.