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Falling in and around the home results in decreased independence and a need for long-term care. Falls are the leading cause of injury death among older adults. Falls often result from home hazards in combination with declining physical abilities. A home assessment by an occupational therapist with specialized training in home modification can prevent falls (Cumming et al., 1999).
Occupational therapists use a holistic approach to home assessment that focuses on the client’s abilities, impairments, desires, and needs, not just the physical characteristics of the home. Occupational Therapists have a medical background and understand how health conditions change over time. Their knowledge and clinical experience enables them to forecast future needs and discuss options to truly “age in place” not “age right now.”
The occupational therapist will ask the client to demonstrate how he or she moves within the home to accomplish activities. For example, the occupational therapist will observe and evaluate an individual’s ability to get dressed, take a shower, or prepare a meal. The therapist then reviews aspects of the home that may require modifications to facilitate performing daily activities safely and independently. An individualized plan is created in collaboration with the client and caregivers that includes safety strategies and education, recommendations for home modifications, a forecast for future needs, and resources for products and services.
There are different intervention strategies for different situations. Some individuals need a home assessment that focuses on fall prevention, others need modifications to compensate for declining cognitive abilities, and many people want a comprehensive assessment for an aging-in-place remodel.
Home modification is very much a team process. Occupational therapy practitioners partner with contractors, architects, designers, and other health care workers for home modifications.
To learn more about getting an occupational therapy home assessment, contact
Nancy Dillinger, OTR, SCEM, ATP
AOTA Environmental Modification in SCEM
Cumming, R. G., Thomas, M., Szonyi, G., Salkeld, G., O’Neill, E. O., Westbury, C., & Frampton, G. (1999). Home visits by an occupational therapist for assessment and modification of environmental hazards: A randomized trial of fall prevention. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 47, 1397-1402.
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