Q: How does a remodeler locate an occupational therapist for consultation on aging-in-place design? —Homes for Life, Hyattsville, Md.
A: There are a lot of terms in use regarding renovating homes to fit individual lives. “Aging-in-place” design is adapting existing home environments to a person’s particular needs, whether due to age, disease, or trauma, so they may live in their homes comfortably for as long as possible.
“Universal” design is for able-bodied people as well as those with physical limitations. Varied counter heights, for instance, can accommodate a variety of users from children to adults or even those in wheelchairs.
That said, consultation by an occupational therapist (OT) may not be necessary for aging-in-place design. The OT’s role begins after a physical therapist (PT) has worked with a patient following a traumatic event to help them regain optimum range of motion and function. An OT comes in because the person has not made a full recovery.
Once the OT understands the person’s physical limits and the new challenges of home and workplace, he or she can recommend modifications to the environment so that the person can be as functional as possible. OTs will make suggestions such as grab-bar placement, whether a ramp or a wheelchair lift is needed, or whether to widen doorways.
You can find OTs in your area in the Yellow Pages or online by contacting the American Occupational Therapists Association http://www.aota.org. In the Hyattsville ZIP code, I found 35. Call someone and develop a relationship with them. Find out if they have the willingness or expertise to work with you on a particular project.
—Patrick M. Andrews is president and CEO of Accessible Renovations, in Perrysburg, Ohio. He has extensive inpatient/outpatient experience working with patients with disabilities as a radiological technologist and he currently works with people who have physical disabilities as an expert in barrier-free building design.