My wife and I live in a beautiful 3200 sq. foot home in the mts. of CO. We only use the master bedroom and bathroom. I use the kitchen to prepare very easy meals. My wife had an AD diagnosis 5 yrs. ago but was probably showing signs several years before that. She is in stage 5+ of the disease. I plan to take care of her for the rest of her life (I am 81 and in good health, she is 78 and in good health except for the AD). I would like to know what is needed in this apartment that our daughter and son-in-law are going to build. Any specific types of furniture, bathroom aids. Types of toilets, showers, etc. Kitchenette facilities. A/C, fans. Types of beds. I am assuming that the apt. will be basically one large room and that is all we need. Being close to our daughter and assistance will be very helpful. Now we live about an hour away from Boulder or Golden, CO. I have always been very capable of building and preparing construction but now I need more specific advice to confront circumstances that are brand new to my wife and myself. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

I have done a lot of research myself but we are entering uncharted territory and I would love any voices of experience from people who have been down this road before.

Thank you. Eddie B.

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Why go to all of this work and expense? Why not go into a good assisted living near your daughter? You'll have resources to help with your wife.
Helpful Answer (22)

My only input is, at your ages - should you really be considering living up a full flight of stairs? If your wife walks out of the apartment, will she (or you) be in danger of falling down a steep flight of stairs?

Going from 3200 square feet to a room the size of a garage? That alone is enough to give me the willies. It's like your entire living space will be the size of your livingroom and maybe not even that big - and you expect to squeeze in a kitchen and bathroom?

Is there no better alternative than to move and live over a garage?? This doesn't sound like a good alternative to me and I would never consider it.
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Wow, What wonderful responses! And I thought I had everything all thought out. You all have given me so much to think about, especially about having an elevator instead of stairs. I can't imagine not having the ability to walk up and down stairs but then my wife and I also had never imagined her becoming ill. I want to thank you all for your well thought out responses to my problem and I can assure you that I will be talking with our daughter and our son and their families so we can get even more input into our problems and hopefully solutions to some of these problems. My father used to say during his final year that "growing old was not for sissies" and I can really see what he was talking about. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful responses.
Eddie B.
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Before you go too far in your planning, check with the planning, zoning and building offices in your daughter's location. Read gardenartist's post carefully. That area of California may even require earthquake grade construction that may not be possible on her home. The room and/or kitchenette above the garage may not be permitted due to fire codes. A second water tap may be required depending on local requirements, which can be very costly especially in California.

Accessibility as many mentioned will be a challenge with anyone that is aging, more so if they have dementia. If no kitchenette, then are you three times daily going down for meals? Or are you just sleeping in the room above the garage and staying in the home the remainder of the day? How would that work for everyone?

If you are thinking about paying for this, consult with an elder law attorney as to how to protect your investment in case you find this was not a good idea.

It is a wonderful idea but, you need to think about the practical side too. Does this really make sense? And does daughter work? If you needed help caring for wife would daughter feel obligated to quit to help? Is that what you would really want for her? These situations are inclined to tear many marriages apart or develop an incredible amount of discord and dysfunction.
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Eddie...great plans but make that BUT...
Your wife will not be able to do stairs well for much longer, and frankly maybe you won't as well.
If you intend on doing this..
No carpet. Solid floor that is water resistant some are rated for 24 hours, some less.
Large bathroom with ROLL in shower. That is a shower with no lip on it that you have to step over. This will allow you to get a shower wheelchair into the bathroom so you can easily shower. The bathroom should also be large enough that you can get 3 people and equipment in and have enough room to move around. ADA height toilet with elongated bowl not a round one. (The shower pan for a roll in shower is usually set below so there will be a "boxed" in area that may show in the garage below the bathroom)
If money is no object an elevator.
As open concept as possible.
As for furniture. Hospital bed. But you can get that through Hospice. And you can get all the equipment you will need though Hospice. I got the hospital bed as well as a Hoyer Lift and the Broda Chair and a Wheelchair.
And this brings me to Hospice PLEASE call them (you are probably thinking about that 6 months thing..) My Husband was on Hospice for over 3 years. As long as there is a decline the person will qualify to remain on Hospice. You will get so much help from the CNA's, the nurses, Social Workers and the rest of the team. Well worth a call to find out if she qualifies.
There are quite a few companies that design for "adapted living" you might want to consult one just to get some ideas.

If all this is daunting you might also want to look into Assisted Living this will make it easy for you to get help when it is needed. You would be able to get out yourself once in a while. Most AL facilities have Memory Care also so she could spend some time there if you wanted to go out. And if worst case arose you could place her in Memory Care knowing she will get professional help and you would be in the same building and cold be with her at any time. (I am also aware of Memory Care facilities that allow an undiagnosed spouse to reside with their loved one in Memory Care and the healthy spouse can come and go as they wish but always come home to be with their loved one.)

I wish you much luck, please keep us posted as to what choices you have made and what suggestions were helpful.
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lealonnie1 Sep 2019
I would never live in memory care with my spouse if I didn't have dementia, never. I would, however, live in the regular Assisted Living section and go visit him daily in memory care. Lots of couples do this in the community where my mother lives and it works out well. I know of NO couples who reside together in memory care where one is not diagnosed with dementia. To each their own, I suppose.
Eddie, lots of excellent advice posted, but I also must ask if this is a walk-in apartment? If not, you really need to consider something else. Plan for worst-case scenarios, not the best. Worst health, worst finances, etc. Don't plan for how things are right now as that will surely change. Then at least you will be truly prepared. We optimistic Americans tend to romanticized aging. It rarely goes how we "picture" it. In CA will you be in easy walking distance of public transportation? Is the county one that has robust resources and services for seniors? Is there a high-quality facility nearby in the likely case she or you will need it? Also, please go into this with your eyes wide open, and especially your daughter, who needs to just read the thousands of posts on this website about caregiver "burnout" written by all those loving family members who wanted to do just what she is now planning but had no real idea of what they were signing up for. I have told my 3 sons that in no way do I expect (or want) them to care for me and my husband like that. Wishing you wisdom and peace!
Helpful Answer (10)

Don’t! It sounds like you and your wife will be isolated and confined to one main room. Yes, you will have your daughter and her family there but they shouldn’t be the only ones you have contact with. Look into independent/senior living with assistance where you not only can get the help you’ll need down the road but also where you can engage with others in your situation. You can visit your daughter and she can visit you. Your time together will be much more enjoyable.
Helpful Answer (10)
AlvaDeer Sep 2019
I think this is really good advice. Just the stairs alone scare me, but the fact that you will be somewhat dependent on just the family for socialization is not really a good plan.
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While I don't have any specific knowledge to help you, I'd wonder about having the space built on the second floor, above the garage. It will not be accessible if you or your wife have even a temporary condition that impairs your mobility. Depending on the size of your daughter's lot, adding a one story wing on her house or building a small "accessory dwelling unit" in the yard might be a better option. Of course these options depend on the zoning whee she lives, the configuration of her house, etc. Maybe your daughter's family could use the space over the garage, if the garage is attached and the space can be made accessible from the house, and then part of the downstairs main house could be converted to a private area for you and your wife.
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newbiewife Sep 2019
I forgot to include the link about accessory dwelling units.

In theory this is a good idea--except for the stairs. They will need to be quite wide and you should definitely install a "lift" as you're building. I kind of chuckle, DH and I are downsizing to a home with one set of stairs and we won't even use the basement daily. We have tons of stairs and I hate them all, and I am only 63!

How big is the space? A double care garage can be huge or tiny---realistically, the space is going to close in on you pretty quickly, as you find that you are basically living in a hospital room.

We built an 800 sf apartment on to my brother's home 23 years ago and it is packed to the gills. Mother is alone there now, and brother has said he regrets doing this every day of his life. He wishes we had moved mother and dad into and Assisted Living Apartment, with step up care as dad grew sicker.

Mother cannot lift her feet a single step, so the long flight of stairs up to the family's "living area" are impossible. She has not been up there for 12 years.

You are riding on the hope that your health holds out and all will be well--and that's a good attitude--but the stairs---that would be huge for me.. How many times a day would you be up and down those? We're talking about 12-15 stairs.

The one very large mistake made in mother's apartment was that they did not plan for wheelchair access into the bathroom/wider doors--basically a wheelchair could go down a short hall to the kitchen, but daddy could not walk the last year of his life and we had to do all the washing, toileting, etc from his room. He nearly went bats from the lack of space to move around.

Now mother is hoarded into this small apartment, is cranky b/c she wants more space, but you can't make something out of nothing. She, too, wishes she'd moved into an ALF apartment. She'd have more help and more freedom.

Just a thought--is there space on the property to build a small home for you two? I'd personally prefer that to living above the garage. I've seen a lot of plans for very cozy, usable space in small house living. I guess zoning will help you with all that.

It's very admirable of you to want to take care of your DW like this. I would personally want my own space--a room I can go into and close the door! Open concept is great but so is small, cozy bedroom or den. After 3200 sf of space, 800-1000 sf is going to close right in on you. My upstairs in my current home is 1000 sf and it is NOT spacious. Also not "elder friendly' by any means.

Wish you luck. Don't jump into anything until you've checked out your options.
Helpful Answer (9)

Eddie - I agree with many of the posts here that say you should NOT do this for the same reasons those posters have mentioned.

Two things I like to add. First, you mentioned in you profile that you are very concerned about your own heath since you're already 80 years old. Statistically, you will go first before your wife even though she has Alzheimer's. What will happen to her when you're gone? Who will take care of your wife 24/7? It is a huge task to take care of a dementia patient 24/7/365. If you daughter steps up, she will have to give up her entire life as she knows it.

If your daughter were to come to this site and ask for advice on whether she should be adding a second floor room to her house and have her aging dad and Alz. mother move in, she would get a resounding NO, not because we think she shouldn't take care of her parents, but because she will NOT be able to provide the care that you and your wife will eventually need without giving up her whole life and existence, and health and sanity. If that's what she prepares to do and knows what she's getting into, then go for it.
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