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Elderdesign: Home modifications for enhanced safety and self-care


It is valuable to help health care professionals keep abreast of the rapidly changing technologies in home products, assistive technology and home care equipment. For this purpose, the formation of a local home modification network would encourage exchange of information between diverse professional groups, including home care agencies, service providers, hospital discharge planners, housing managers, architects and interior designers, occupational and physical therapists, the local office of the American Association of Retired Persons, and the local Area Agency on Aging. Monthly case presentations for the network members and an annual conference for larger audiences would help keep professionals informed on the latest research on the efficacy of home modifications, new product developments, and best practices. Funding could come from membership dues, private foundations, local Area Agencies on Aging and corporate sponsorships.

Health care professionals could offer consumer workshops, aimed at both the adult child who wants to help his/her parents age-in-place but is in need of direction, and the older adult, who may not be aware of the importance of home modifications in extending independent living. In addition, distributing information brochures and a list of local resources would be very helpful. As older patients tend to respect and value the advice of their health care providers, primary care doctors and nurse practitioners could be instructed on how to initiate conversations on home modifications. Home care aides, those who spend the most time in a patient's residence, could be better trained to observe and report on environmental hazards.

Home modifications play a pivotal role in helping a person age in place. During this "window of opportunity", before the baby boomers reach their later years, health professionals can help lay the foundation for promoting the environment as a active partner in the caregiving process.

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New York-Presbyterian. The University Hospitals of Columbia and Cornell