Build A Better House
Long term care, as we currently know it, will change in a dramatic fashion as the focus of care will be shared between elderly baby boomers and middle aged adults on the autism spectrum. The care needs of the two populations will differ immensely as the senior segment will be more centered on health maintenance, as opposed to wellness and safety. Along with mid- life adults on the autism spectrum, there will be younger adults with early onset Alzheimer’s and dementia. Additionally, younger adults needing assisted living and professional care services will include those suffering from traumatic brain injuries, recreational and lifestyle accidents, and returning soldiers experiencing the atrocities of war. Needless to say, long term care will look very different by 2040 than it does today. Nursing homes have a tradition of focusing on end of life issues, but the long term care of the future will also incorporate vitality, enhancing productivity, and embracing life! The job outlook for health care workers will remain strong through the middle of the 21ST century and beyond. However, the long term care industry will be transformed – requiring a much different focus of health care. For an industry once considered depressing and dismal, this is exciting news. Having a very bright prospect ahead, the long term care profession is poised for explosive growth for years to come.
One of the biggest areas of reform will come within the construction of care facilities. The attention given to aesthetic qualities of the buildings will become a focal point in an attempt to address the sensory concerns of residents with ASD. The use of highly specialized design consultants and interior decorators trained in the field of autism will become commonplace in commercial development. The first reason for the change has to do with the continuing trend of moving away from the old school institutional feel, to a softer more personalized environment. The evolution of design acumen will be challenged like never before as addressing the sensory issues of future residents on the autism spectrum becomes prevalent. The vision of incorporating the vast array of sensory and developmental concerns will rival that of a high tech experiment. As mentioned earlier, many of those with ASD are above average intelligence with a penchant for obscure facts and a fascination for the mundane. Computers, books, selected online websites, and virtual networks are areas of interests which occupy a great deal of time. The continuing expansion of computer technologies will drive demand in the future; thus making it paramount that care facilities remain up to date.
Along with providing for the needs of those members on the high functioning end of the autism continuum, facilities in the future must address very different needs for the lower functioning members of the population. Besides the broad range of dietary limitations and restrictions that can make meal time an adventure, other considerations must be weighed prior to placing an autistic resident. Sanitation and housekeeping has always been a major challenge for long term care facilities as minimizing viruses and bacterial infections are always a threat. Keeping allergens under control will be a huge challenge for a population that is susceptible to a plethora of air borne and environmental particles.
Special consideration is necessary in employing chemical cleansers within facilities caring for residents on the autism spectrum. The health ramifications related to using chemicals for sanitation and cleaning purposes among those with compromised immune systems are enormous. In addition to the potential harm resulting from harsh chemicals, attention must be given in the selection of towels, linens, and personal care products. Some individuals on the spectrum require special skin care products to avoid rashes and irritation. Dermatological concerns represent only a small fraction of unique care challenges for facilities specializing in care for autistic adults. In addition, care must be taken regarding noise control, exposure to fluorescent lighting, the use of certain spices in food, and a host of other sensory concerns.
In exploring future applications for a cleaner planet, it is imperative to prioritize the lifestyle and health needs of those with autism. First, the long term health and well being of the individual is crucial. This includes having the ability to live alone, as many on the spectrum will live independently in the future. Certainly safety should never be compromised, but going green does not mean having to settle for accommodations less than desirable. Moreover, using resources in a responsible manner is a matter of extreme importance to consumers, regulators, and many special interest groups. Through our neglect and carelessness, we have polluted our environment and it has been negatively impacted in essential areas such as nutrition, transportation, clothing, sleeping, and housing. For parents of autistic children, dealing with the emotional and physical demands of making modifications in these basic areas of life is an ongoing battle.
Amazingly, each family creates their own unique system that works for all in order to accommodate the autistic member. Start with matters that pertain to health initially, as all other concerns will come afterwards. Think about the quality of indoor air and healthy foods with a minimal amount of hormones and pesticides for those with upper respiratory problems and digestive concerns. Selecting the right choice of window covering, carpet, and light fixtures should involve more than aesthetics, but also consider health issues such as allergies and tolerance levels to the environment. These are just some of the health problems doctors are seeing with children diagnosed with autism and we can expect more complicated cases to arise as time goes on.
Research indicates the air we breathe indoors is actually dirtier than outside air quality. Pollutants such as dust, molds, pet dander, dust mites, and smoke all contribute to indoor air quality. For the person with autism, respiratory issues may be a secondary diagnosis capable of triggering a pre-existing condition. In addition to particles and pollutants in the air we inhale inside, there are Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCS). Volatile Organic Chemicals are found in common household products such as aerosol sprays, paints, pesticides, and cleaning products. The Environmental Protection Agency established severe restrictions regarding VOCS contained in lead based paint in 2010. When considering housing for the autistic population, air quality is a major concern as to overall health and compliance with the EPA for commercial properties. The food we eat influences our quality of life more than we may realize and this has even more relevancy with autistic children and adults.
Related to dietary concerns, now is the time to address global food shortages and how the effect will spread throughout the world. We may or may not see soup lines in the developed world, but make no mistake that there will be far reaching consequences. From commodity market imbalances to increased scrutiny of government officials around the world – the lack of adequate food supplies will play a major role in society in the 21ST century. Meal planning and preparation are very serious issues for those with severe dietary restrictions and the lack of various ingredients may contribute to future health problems.