Accessibility Journeys: Working with Aging Parents, Respect the Emotion

A few years ago Creative Renovations worked with a couple in their 80’s.  They wanted to relocate their washer and dryer from their basement to the ground floor of the ranch style home because carrying the laundry basket up and down the steps was becoming too difficult. During our initial discussion we not only decided the best place for the washer and dryer, but also formulated a floor plan that would ensure accessibility for the rest of their lives. With this, I casually suggested a few grab bars for safety.Now you must know…my intentions were pretty simple and straight-forward. Over the years, I have seen so many people who have suffered injuries because of a slippery bathroom floor. Injuries that could have been prevented by a simple installation of grab bars in their bathrooms. But, my client, who also served as the woman of the house, teared up and almost began to cry. For her, I wasn’t simply suggesting she increase her safety in her bathroom, what she heard me say way this was the beginning of the end of her, and her husband’s freedom. This exchange marked the beginning of my understanding that for many seniors having someone show up to complete accessibility renovations was equivalent to having an undertaker show up for measurements.

update your home with a barrier-free shower next to your tub with grab bars
Update your home with a barrier-free shower next to your tub with grab bars

 

This was a big moment for her…and as it turns out, a big moment for me.

And, it’s not only hard for seniors to accept that they need accessibility modifications to remain safe in their home, it’s also extremely hard for their children.  Along the way our Creative Renovations team has noticed that many of the requests for accessibility/safety renovations come not from the primary customer (seniors) but from their 40 – 50 year old sons and daughters.  Our conversations with their concerned loved ones often start with “Dad has fallen it the bathroom twice in the last month” and end with “they won’t let you in the house unless I talk them into it”.

In working with seniors we have learned that it is vitally important to remember that discussions about modifying their home to accommodate limited mobility can be emotionally laden.  They are beginning to come to terms with physical failings and the trusted contractor needs to tread lightly.  Contractors need to invest more time with the aging clients and add a mixture of sensitivity, humor, explanation, and most importantly, assurance that the client will be gaining independence to stay in their home.

 

Patrick Rafter, CEO

Creative Housing|Creative Renovations has been a pioneer in providing custom accessible home renovations throughout Central Ohio since 1992. 

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