If we already know what home modifications are needed, what is the benefit of a home safety checkup?
This is one of the most common questions asked by older adults and family members when they first begin the home modification process.
And although it’s great to have a sense of what areas in the home you already want to modify, it’s also important to understand that home modifications require thorough processes - oftentimes involving an occupational therapist.
Taking a thorough approach
The biggest reason why a full checkup should be conducted by a home safety expert, such as an occupational therapist (OT) is that OTs are educated and trained to analyze your loved ones’ environment and daily habits to better understand how they function in the home.
This is because, although home modifications are about preventing fall risk, they are also designed to maximize one’s ability to engage in the desired activities of daily living.
These daily activities can include things we often take for granted.
- Navigating and reaching for items in the kitchen
- Spending extra time grooming or upper body dressing
- General household management such as changing light bulbs or smoke detectors
- Meal preparation
In addition, many older adults and their families are unaware of the modifications that are fully available to them. You might think the only modifications available are grab bars and shower chairs when in reality there are so many options that can improve safety and independence.
That’s why occupational therapists utilize a home safety assessment checklist that walks through every aspect of life at home. By going through this checklist, they can engage in discussions about vision, hearing, balance, fall history, medications, cognition, strength and endurance.
If done properly a checkup will always provide a comprehensive view and understanding of three fundamental things:
- The person
- The environment
- The daily activities
A personalized process that leads to better outcomes
Now, what does a home safety checkup really look like?
While every occupational therapist might make slight adjustments to their personal process there are still fundamental components that every trained and qualified therapist should perform during a checkup.
We’ve decided to list this information out so that when you are discussing home modifications with an OT you can be confident that they are doing the best job to always put safety first.
A safety checkup should always include the following three-steps:
- The OT should begin with a collaborative discussion with the family. You’ll spend a good amount of time sharing more about medical history, fall history, current activities, levels of independence, areas of most concern, and the top desired outcomes for aging in place. This is your chance to communicate everything, so don’t hold back.
- Next, the OT will collect all of the information provided and go into a thorough home tour, making specific notes about concerns expressed. During this home tour, you and your loved ones will show the OT the most frequently used areas. This is also when you will have the opportunity to visually point out those specific concerns shared and demonstrate how time is spent throughout the home.
- To make sure everything is properly documented for measurements and product fittings, the OT will then go throughout the home to take photos, identify problem areas and take 3D scans. All of these assets are used to build your personalized home report which will show you how each home modification suggestion can be applied to specific needs and style preferences.
And as we’ve mentioned a full home safety checkup allows the therapist to make recommendations for spaces that you or your loved one might not have thought about. By allowing them to work directly with your family, you will see a more effective and efficient process to optimizing independence at home.
Interested in having a licensed occupational therapist come to your home for a safety checkup? Click the link to schedule a complimentary appointment.
Modifications are never one-size-fits-all
Safety and your health at home will never be a one-size-fits-all process.
No matter how many older adults our occupational therapists serve, each case and needs are always unique to the person and especially the home environment. It can be very tempting to base your home modification project on what is considered the “industry standard”, but there are often many areas of the home and needs of the older adult that are not cookie cutter.
By conducting a full home safety checkup, you are working directly with the OT to prevent ordering products or making major home modification decisions that one day may have to be changed.
A common situation we see is the overcompensation of modifications.
For example, many older adults and their families choose to install a stairlift in the home. And although stairlifts are a fantastic resource for those who struggle to move up and down the stairs, they can also be non-beneficial for older adults who are still active and are able to use stairs.
As a result these older adults can lose major muscle strength from not getting their legs moving even when they still have the ability to do so. That’s why it’s important to also be assessed for what you can do in your home!
One of the things most rewarding about the home checkup process is being able to build a report and plan that not only meets an older adults immediate needs but goes even deeper to provide support.
For example, an occupational therapist that has personally assessed a home will be able to pinpoint specific recommendations that otherwise would have been overlooked. These could include special motion sensor lighting under the bed after a mention about vision challenges, an additional grab bar in the area of the shower one prefers to sit in, or even unique grip tape used on the staircase to prevent skin abrasions.
There are hundreds of home modifications products on the market, but finding what will work best for your home can be overwhelming and a challenging journey to navigate on your own. That’s why occupational therapists pride themselves on showing families the best products that will best fit all needs and styles.
One of the biggest benefits of conducting a full home safety checkup is that it can allow an older adult to return home from the hospital or rehabilitation facility faster.
And it's important to note that many modifications such as ramps, grab bars, etc. are often required prior to discharge home.
By ensuring that all preventative measures have been taken into account, occupational therapists can work with an older adult’s family to optimize safety and independence before they even get home.
This can make the transition from the hospital to the home much smoother - letting the older adult solely focus on resting.
Keeping costs low
Lastly, many families assume that conducting a home safety checkup is costly, especially since many health insurance plans don’t always cover the modification process.
However for many occupational therapists and Jukebox Health especially, we see the undeniable benefit of conducting thorough checkups. That’s why we offer completely free home safety checkups to all older adults and families who wish to better understand the aging in place process and learn what home modifications can truly do to reestablish an older adult's safety.