Home Modifications and Occupational Therapy: My Fellowship with Rebuilding Together

May 22, 2024
by Justin Chapman, Howard University Occupational Therapist Fellow at Rebuilding Together Northern Nevada

As an Occupational Therapy (OT) student, my experience in Rebuilding Together’s fellowship had a monumental impact on my perspective of aging in the home and safe and healthy housing. During my time at Rebuilding Together Northern Nevada, one of the things I really enjoyed was having the opportunity to engage in a home assessment with Gregg Hamilton, the operations manager who provided me with a wealth of knowledge. Through this observation of a client's home, I was able to make connections of what I have already learned in my first year as an OT student with Rebuilding Together’s 25 Safe and Healthy Housing Priorities and their Seven Community Revitalization Partnership (CRP) Principles. Being able to assess these priorities through the use of the CRP Principles has enabled me to consider a much broader spectrum of home modifications and the impact these modifications have on the community.

In correlation to my site visit, I had the chance to create a case study based on data I collected from the homeowner which revealed pertinent information about the client and the challenges they have with everyday activities. This allowed me the opportunity to apply the use of client-centered care and cultural competence through principle #6 in understanding what was important to the client and affirming the values of their community. Working in collaboration with Meg Shea, the executive director of Rebuilding Together Northern Nevada and the rest of her board members has permitted me to utilize my knowledge of home modifications, adaptive equipment and falls risk management from previous courses such as OT Theories and Concepts and Human Performance and Movement Analysis. With the population of older adults on the rise in Northern Nevada, the impact of occupational therapy in collaboration with Rebuilding Together has shown to be extremely valuable.

I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to Rebuilding Together, especially its Northern Nevada affiliate. I would like to give a special thank you to Meg Shea, Rebuilding Together Northern Nevada’s executive director, who served as my mentor and took the time to discuss the affiliate’s objectives and plan of action during my fellowship. My time and stay in Reno will be a favorable memory, because of the wealth of knowledge and experience I have gained from the affiliate's staff. Thank you to Katie Pace, a board member of the Northern Nevada affiliate, for being an available resource of information and connections all over the region. Also, thank you to Kathy Wright, program manager of Rebuilding Together Northern Nevada, for your kindness and for allowing me the opportunity to learn about how your affiliate operates and the methods and strategies behind your success. It has been fantastic working with an organization that has a mission of revitalizing the community and helping homeowners age in place. Thank you to Steve Reade, board president of the Northern Nevada affiliate for the invitation to lunch as well as empowering me as an occupational therapy student to exercise my understanding of advocacy for homeowners and home modifications as it correlates to adding meaning to life.

Rebuilding Together's Howard University Fellowship program was made possible through a Rural Capacity Building grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). We are thankful for HUD's commitment to affordable housing and community development activities in rural areas.