Double Vision: Seeing The Home Through 2 Sets Of Eyes

    By Debbie Hartzler

    As an Occupational Therapist in health care, I am used to working with team members. While commonly engaged with physicians, nurses, physical therapists, social workers, and speech pathologists, working with a remodeler was something new. (The only experience I had with remodelers was a man who helped refinish our basement that worked out the back of his truck and had never heard the words universal design).

    A Marriage Made in Heaven

    Nearly 2 years ago I entered into this relationship with slight skepticism. I knew what I had to offer in the way of home modifications with my medical background, but was not sure the remodelers would have a whole lot to add or that we would even speak the same language.

    Our “1st date” was a great eye opener. The design remodel team at LifeWise is CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist) certified through the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders). Not only were they aware of universal design principles, they had also done their homework on products, searching the market for the latest technologies that offer increased flexibility, safety, and reliability. We were able to go into the home of a newly diagnosed spinal cord injured person and quickly focus in on the same areas.  Not only were we speaking the same language, we began problem solving and generating many more possibilities than I would ever have developed on my own. Somewhat like an old married couple, we were able to finish off each other’s ideas and thoughts. These guys were good, but together we were great.

    Parallel Universes with Common Goals

    Occupational Therapists focus on enabling people to perform everyday activities (or occupations) in the context of their surroundings. They analyze how a person interacts with his/her environment to complete a task and then provide suggestions or tools to modify the environment and maximize the individual’s ability to fully participate safely in these daily tasks.

    Remodelers who incorporate universal design focus on creating spaces that provide increased safety and functionality. Through the utilization of universal design and aging in place principles, they create user friendly environments for people of all ages and abilities.

    Benefits of “Double Vision”

    The optimal assessment occurs when the OT and the remodeler go into the home together. The OT gathers data about the home owner’s physical abilities (balance, mobility, coordination, general strength, cognitive and sensory abilities) and medical conditions (if any). The remodeler gathers data about the home environment looking at accessibility, structural layout, the condition of the home, the physical layout,etc

    A walkthrough of the home is performed together, looking for areas that can be changed to increase safety and accessibility based upon the homeowner’s individual needs and desires. Afterward, a meeting of the minds occurs where ideas are exchanged and specific home plans and recommendations are developed for the home owner.

    I have learned many new things as the result of working closely with remodelers. When transitioning people home from the hospital setting, I would frequently recommend minor bathroom changes such as grab bars and tub seats. While effective, these can be short term solutions. The remodelers have expanded my repertoire of adaptations from barrier free showers to the toilet that cleans and dries your backside. In turn, I have provided the medical knowledge crucial to determining specific adaptations given an individual’s condition and potential future physical issues.

    With no background in construction and building codes, I was previously ignorant to the many options available. I have developed a great respect for what my remodeling partners bring to the table. This relationship has enhanced our individual and collective knowledge base and has afforded me a greater appreciation for seeing things through 2 sets of eyes. As we say at LifeWise Renovations®, it has enabled me to imagine the possibilities.