“One of the ladies [I provide services for] has arthritis,” she said. “She lives in [a senior independent living facility]. In that place, there is [a] senior facility [that contains] bars [to prevent falls]. [Other places say] ‘We don’t [carry] bars, grab bars.’
“[In] every [senior long-term care facility and assisted living center I visited in the past], [I see chairs with] one or two arms or two legs. I have some problems [like getting] chairs with arms.
“[When I talk to some seniors in long-term care, I will get comments like, ‘The] kids are too busy. I tell my wife to get me [a] chair [with particular features to accommodate my illness and disability’]. How many [assisted living facilities or senior long-term care centers] don’t have a table? They put [so many objects] on it [that it no longer functions as a table for mealtimes].”
Eckhouse established her business using her master’s degree training in gerontology from 2000, her work in senior long-term care and rehabilitation services, her 30 years of experience as an occupational therapist and later her certification as an “aging in place” specialist in 2008. Her thesis project for her master’s degree at Northeastern Illinois University was “Internet-based Resources on Information for Successful Aging and Independent Living.” Her website is at http://www.MyElderSpace.com.
A member of the Chicago chapter of ASA and the AARP, Eckhouse networks locally with the Senior Lawyers Committee of the Chicago Bar Association, Senior Services Division of the City of Chicago Providers Council, CJE SeniorLife and Covenant Methodist Homes to learn about the latest trends, research and practices in senior long-term care and home care to inform her commercial services.
“[With our current] health (care) system, you [may have, for example,] one week of [emergency room medical center or hospital care or] housing and three or four [weeks of] rehabilitation,” Eckhouse said. “You are lucky [to have] two weeks [of adequate transition time in between categories of care].”
As do most local companies, ElderSpace staff must consider the material, designs and regulations under which private family residences built after World War II were constructed to determine home improvement plans.
“[In the] post-World War II [era,] [there was a brand of] emerging housing [that they created to accommodate new middle city and suburban families throughout the country],” Eckhouse said. “[The] standards never changed. Cabinets and door knobs used [a particular material and design].”
Part of the counseling to homeowners and some of the products used for transforming homes include assistive technology such as computers, tablets and Skype, she said.
For example, if seniors living at home or in a long-term care facility need to take five or six bottles of medicine and they are forgetful, a specially-built machine may be set to help them remember to take them on time, in the correct dosage and with the right frequency.
“We call [on] assistant technology [to enable seniors to perform basic daily life functions],” Eckhouse said. “There are different ways that technology can help. Some technology is to help people [with tasks on a step-by-step basis] and others are sensors. [In either case,] technology is for communication.”
Still, she said, the difficulty of working with technology is learning the rules and laws governing use and implementation.
“With technology, it is complicated,” Eckhouse said. “The definitions aren’t the same. The government passes laws [on the definitions and regulations]. You are working with documents, namely electronic paperwork, and working with patients to try to implement [those machines or equipment].”
This article was originally published March 10, 2014 on the website of PharmPsych.com, one of seven websites that comprise The Pharm Psych Network, a medical communications and education company.