Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Aging-in-Place: How Can a Certified Professional Help?

Certified Aging in Place Specialist logoIf you’re caring for a senior who needs a little help to live in their home, you’ve probably heard the term “aging-in-place.”  It’s a catchy little phrase, but I prefer to think of it as “making a home for life.”  It’s all about living well, safely and comfortably as you age in the familiar surroundings called “home.”  It’s exactly what most people want to do.

To address the need, the Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) program was developed by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Research Center, the 50+ Housing Council, and the American Association of Retired Professionals (AARP).  This program trains Certified Aging in Place Specialists how best to modify homes for safety and access so people can live there as long as they like. 

Why are seniors better off hiring a Certified Aging in Place Professional? 

Partly because this person understands how to design for the special needs of mature people, but also because they are aware of codes, standards, the latest helpful products, and resources for comprehensive aging-in-place solutions. Certified Aging in Place Specialists also pledge to uphold a code of ethics and to keep their certification they have to continue their learning and participate in community service. 

In addition, a Certified Aging in Place Specialist is taught how to interact with seniors and those who care for them: the adult children, spouse, occupational therapist and professional caregiver. 

It starts with listening.  To understand a senior’s strengths and weaknesses the specialist asks questions.  Is Grandma’s vision a little hazy?  Does she ever get dizzy when she stands up too quickly? Has she ever slipped in the shower stall?   As her arthritis progresses, what other challenges will she face?

Observations are also important.  Are there any tell-tale signs around the house that indicate a need?  For example, handprints on a wall could suggest a need for a hand rail, a loose throw rug or excess clutter could predict a future fall.

Once a Certified Aging in Place Specialist has made an assessment, the professional provides recommendations.  These could be simple and inexpensive such as throwing out or taping down those throw rugs to prevent a fall, replacing door knobs with lever handles to make doors easier to open, putting non-slip strips in the bathtub, installing grab bars in the bathtub and shower stall, and adding a hand-held shower.  Other recommendations may require a greater investment such as adjusting the countertop heights in the bathroom and kitchen, adding a first floor master suite, or installing a walk-in bathtub.

But if it means people can live at home for life independently or with a little help from their caregivers, it’s a task worth tackling.

Goodbye for now from George Flowers.

Have you ever worked with an Aging in Place Specialist?  What was your experience like?

What special products (such as a walk-in bathtub or accessible shower stall) have you recommended to seniors to help them live happily in their homes? What did you like about them?

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