Residential Interiors and Creative Caregiving

 approach residential interiors differently when I think of creative caregiving, in the intent to create a home to look less than institutional. In my architectural practice, I have worked with physically challenged people, however, they were in charge of their lives.  Some families have cared for recipients since their birth.  Others become caregivers upon entering relationships, or within relationships that change over time.  Some may experience this change within spaces that were not originally selected for that use.  We adapt houses and apartments to ever shifting needs, if possible.  

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Architecturally, many spaces can be designed to accommodate many layouts and uses.  However, interior (if structural), and exterior walls are fixed, imposed limits.  Furniture placing would work best if traffic or circulation space is identified first and maintained.  What remains can be used to place elements for maximum use and access.

Items such as lighting and storage are common to most rooms.  When giving care, they may need to be improved and, in the case of storage, possibly expanded.  I wrote in Creative Caregiving and Housekeeping suggestions for decentralizing storage areas.  If a central area is more practical, items can be brought there for refill or deposited like clothing and linen from collapsible hampers for laundry, and returned to their stations.   

Interior design solutions have improved when designers understood that few people could replace their furniture and perhaps don’t wish to.  Many design shows have shown viewers that furniture purchased for and used in one room for a period of time may serve better in another.

Unobstructed Movement 

If a care receiver uses a cane, wheelchair or scooter, all circulation areas should be free of objects permitting full use of the floor space- wall-to-wall.  Some like the opportunity to use corridors for display, therefore, I suggest using the wall area 4’-6” above the floor for that.  The images will be free from displacement.  Wainscoting, a decorative wall treatment with a more durable material could be applied to add an extra touch that is easy to maintain.  One as simple as a durable paint in the same color as the wall surfaces or in an accent color is easily achievable.

Corner guards protect wall materials like drywall or cement board to which paint or wall surface materials are applied or wall finishes like wood from scrapes and knocks.  Health care facilities were the first interiors to use them.  They were usually black and made of rubber.  Manufacturers have expanded the options in more affordable materials and colors.

With all that occurs in caregiving relationships, the ability to move within a space should be as simple as possible.  Humans attempt to find answers to problems and move on.  When basic matters are addressed then there is a little relief to turn the mind to other issues that demand attention.




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Friend Clement Edwardo Hill, II


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