Diane Vitillo, MS, OTR, PTA, CAPS, has made it her life’s work to help seniors age in place. A polio survivor, Vitillo is a dreamer, taking her career in the rehabilitation profession and using it to develop innovative ways for patients to complete meaningful tasks that are problematic for them due to age or disability.
Home Heart Beats offers services for successful aging. This includes aging in place consultations, home accessibility and modification assessments, and fall prevention strategies. Vitillo also works with realtors, builders, and interior designers to re-imagine a livable home design that’s comfortable and functional regardless of physical disability.
“Although my clients’ diagnoses are varied, the wishes are the same: to remain in their own home and age in place with dignity and comfort in an environment that affords them a sense of belonging, peace, and contentment,” Vitillo said.
“Since I was 4 years old, I have not had the use of my right shoulder due to the effects of polio. As an inquisitive child, a blossoming adolescent, a young adult, and now an active senior, I have stockpiled an arsenal of strategies that have facilitated my life’s journey while living with a disability. As a therapist, I have shared many of these strategies with those under my care.”
Her career in the rehabilitation profession as a physical therapist assistant, an occupational therapist, and a certified aging in place specialist has given her the opportunity to work with clients ranging in age from birth to end of life — many of whom have personally touched her life.
“One in particular — a young stroke survivor — challenged me to invent a product that would help him regain his independence in dressing,” she explained. “I accepted his challenge and went on to invent, manufacture, and patent an adaptive dressing aid called ‘The Original AFO Assist’ which is used to facilitate donning an ankle foot orthosis (AFO) and a shoe (an AFO is a brace that corrects foot drop).”
What Vitillo has found over and over again throughout the years is that the Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy with her ruby red slippers was right: there’s no place like home. Helping clients address the concerns they have about aging in place is Home Heart Beats’ focus.
“As we age, we have difficulty admitting that our home environment could be our primary disabling factor, not our age or ability,” Vitillo notes. “Our environment can facilitate or impede our performance and participation in the tasks we need and love to do. The less environmental support that we have, the greater the demands we place on ourselves and our caregivers to safely get through each day.”
Vitillo and Home Heart Beats gently helps clients embrace changes they sometimes don’t want to face, such as difficulty climbing the stairs or the fact they’ve fallen a few times. It’s getting past just “managing” to safely aging in place in the home these clients love.
“Invite us in and let our staff of healthcare professionals provide an in-depth home assessment and discuss modification options that can help you safely and comfortably age in place,” says Vitillo.
Home Heart Beats, LLC, 301 North Harrison Street #455, Princeton. 732-305-7689. Toll Free: 888-612-1696. Fax: 732-305-7961. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. www.homeheartbeats.com