By Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch, MBA
Sometimes the dedicated caregiver of a special-needs adult child or an aging parent just needs some space. So does the person you’re caring for.
It’s not surprising that I’m noticing a trend in remodeling needs for room additions, finished garages and in-home efficiency apartments that can give the cared-for some private living space of their own and the caregivers some extra room in their own homes.
One special couple I worked with years ago has a grown daughter who has Down syndrome. She has a part-time job, and she’s capable of making simple meals and keeping herself entertained with video games and other hobbies. As she got older, she wanted more privacy and a place to call her own, just like any other young adult. So her parents called my design team in to see what we could come up with.
We expanded their 2,500-square-foot home by adding on a 500-square-foot room big enough for a double bed, a small sofa, a TV, a chair, and a breakfast table, much like an efficiency apartment. It includes a small kitchen and a bathroom, and it has a separate entrance, so the daughter doesn’t have to walk through her parents’ home to get into her own.
Now, the parents have their space, the daughter has hers, and they’re all close enough to check in with each other several times a day and to get together for meals whenever they want.
Similarly, another family with a special-needs adult son converted the two-car garage into an efficiency apartment, big enough for a kitchenette, a small living room with a pull-out sofa and a sitting area with a TV. We were able to install plumbing and electricity. This room also has its own entrance, but it’s attached to his parents’ house, so parents and son can easily balance their need for privacy with their need to stay close together.
Lots of families are taking in elderly parents who can’t quite manage their own large homes anymore but aren’t ready to move into an assisted living facility. Adding on and converting garages allows the family to offer their loved ones more privacy and more space than they would have if they simply bunked in the guest bedroom and shared the kitchen and TV room with everyone else in the house.
It also offers the caregivers more privacy and space in their own homes—a place to take much-needed breaks during a day filled with tending to the needs of others.
This arrangement also can work well when a college grad or when an adult child returns home temporarily to regroup before a fresh start.
A bonus: The new room or remodeled garage adds value to the home. Plenty of families are looking for homes with built-in efficiency apartments that they can offer to older children or aging parents whom they want to keep close but who need their privacy.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan your remodeling project or room addition:
- You might want to equip the new space with some “universal design” features that will keep the “tenant” comfortable as he or she ages. Consider bathroom and kitchen sinks with enough room underneath for a wheelchair and a roll-in or walk-in shower instead of a bathtub. Install levers rather than knobs on doors because they’re easier for someone with arthritis to operate.
- To give the occupant control over air temperature, consider adding a stand-alone air conditioner that’s not connected to your home’s central HVAC system. A wall unit works nicely, as does a “package” unit with a separate condenser outdoors.
- Equip the space with some safety features, like grab bars in the bathroom and a panic button that automatically dials your home phone or 911 when pushed, for example.
Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, is the president of Re-Bath in Shreveport. You can contact him at 318-216-4525 or by visiting www.rebath.com/location/shreveport.