Making Space for Mom at Your Home

Accessory Dwelling Units as Senior Housing

A senior housing option that is getting more popular (but doesn’t inherently solve care needs) could solve the housing challenge. It is an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU). These are small houses or apartments that exist on the same property lot as a single-family residence. It’s a solution that can be an affordable and flexible housing option.

What are ADUs?

ADUs are a secondary dwelling unit with complete independent living facilities for one or more persons. Up to 1200 Sq.ft of additional space can be added to your home with an ADU. Today, ADUs are known by different names: tiny homes, granny unit, granny flat, in-law unit, in-law cottage, mother-in-law apartment, sidekick home, laneway home, backyard guesthouse, backyard cottage or secondary dwelling unit. 

What are JADUs?

Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADUs) are allowed to be created within the walls of a proposed or existing single-family residence and shall contain no more than 500 square feet. JADUs offer additional housing options. They may share central systems, contain a basic kitchen utilizing small plug-in appliances, may share a bathroom with the primary dwelling, all to reduce development costs. JADUs present no additional stress on utility services or infrastructure because they simply repurpose existing space within the residence and do not expand the dwelling’s planned occupancy.

Common ways to finance an ADU:

  • Construction/renovation loan
  • Home equity loan
  • Personal line of credit
  • ADU loans
  • State grants

While California, New York and Vermont are taking the lead in ADU grants and programs, other states such as Texas, Colorado, and Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington also have expanding programs to help fund and facilitate ADU construction. (In California, all CalFHU funds for the ADU Grant program were fully reserved as of 3/1/2023.)

If the housing challenge can be solved with an ADU, it’s possible that funds usually reserved for housing can be put toward hiring care.

More options 

In addition to ADUs, there are many many living and care options. You may have heard of a Life Plan Community or Continuing Care Retirement Community, Board and Care Home, Assisted Living, Adult Family Home, Skilled Nursing, or Palliative Care. Making sense of what they address and how they differ can be really confusing. 

Housing and care options for older adults span levels of independence, price points, levels of care (or not at all) and distinct living environments. If you find yourself suddenly thrown into solving housing and care for an older adult, it’s a lot to sort through. While changes are generally part of the process, it’s clearly easier on everyone when moves are minimized.

Select the best housing and care options

Our Housing and Care Options chart provides descriptions, a “good fit” profile and cost comparisons. If the older adult has care needs (or will soon) and you aren’t certain which care setting is most appropriate, their physician should be able to give you guidance.

How to Balance Work With Your Parent’s Medical Procedure

woman waiting for senior having medical procedureDo you take PTO at work to help your aging parents? Medical procedures like joint replacements, heart procedures and cancer treatments are common among those over age 65. 

Your aging parent may exude health, especially for their age. But it is likely they will experience a serious medical procedure.

Do you need to take time off work in order to help? 

Potentially, yes. But you may be able to show up for your parent while getting some work done using the tips below.

Six Tips to Waiting Room Productivity
  • Prepare to be your parent’s medical advocate.

Before the procedure, discuss what role they would like you to play in different scenarios, both if it goes smoothly and if there are complications.

  • Create a medical document planner with your parent.

Ensure you have copies of their driver’s license, insurance cards, advance directive, medical history and medication list. Make sure you know which pharmacy they use. Both digital and paper copies are useful. A planner like this one is helpful

  1. Recognize post-surgery support will take more time than you expect. Transportation to follow-up appointments, support through medication reactions and personal assistance may be needed. Enlist other family members to help ahead of time. If you are providing the physical follow-up care yourself, remember self-care so that you can show up as your best self.
  2. Research outside help, even if you think you won’t use it. 

Knowing where and how you would get additional care support gives you peace of mind and allows you to meet your other work and family commitments. Consider getting a home health aide or checking into a rehab facility. Either one takes the physical burden off family members and offers built-in physical therapy. Research providers and read reviews at the unbiased Care Compare.

Many employers offer caregiver support as a part of your benefit package. Ask your HR department to offer the Ways & Wane benefit.
  • Be present in order to honor your parent.

Try to avoid scheduling critical meetings on the day of the procedure, even if you are working in the waiting room. You don’t want to be on an important call when the doctor comes out to give an update. 

  • Prepare your hospital “go” bag. 

Take your work with you. Procedures can be delayed or prolonged. Make sure you have power cords, earbuds, snacks, water and a sweater or light blanket in case your waiting time gets extended.

Download a free guide “How to Balance Work with Your Parent’s Medical Procedure” to share on your company’s Slack or with your HR team.

Care well; work well.

Debbie McDonald is the founder of Ways & Wane, simplifying eldercare decisions for working professionals. She lives in Northern California with her husband.

Impatient with Repeated Questions? 7 Strategies to Respond with Patience

“What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do now?”

Being repeatedly asked the same question by anyone, whether they are 2 or 70, is frustrating. When it means they are fading cognitively, feelings of grief get mixed into the dynamic. 

How can you respond and save your own sanity? Here are 7 practical tips:

  1. Give yourself permission to be sad about your senior’s mental decline and mourn the fact that they are no longer who they once were. It’s okay to be sad about that. It’s normal and actually loving. 
  2. Remember that your senior is asking repeated questions because of damage to their brain cells, whether it’s because of a stroke, a form of dementia, a traumatic brain injury or something else they are now cognitively disabled. They wouldn’t choose to be confused and aren’t trying to annoy you. 
  3. Look for a reason behind the questions. Are they trying to communicate something else altogether? Does the behavior happen at a particular time of the day or around particular people?
  4. Think about how they are feeling, not what they are doing or saying and respond to their emotion, not their behavior.
  5. Refocus their energy on a new activity, even if it’s just a fidget type gadget that keeps their hands busy. 
  6. When responding to them, do your best to keep your voice calm and don’t try to argue or use logic. The latter response will likely escalate their confusion by adding anxiety.
  7. Restate what they are saying and answer their question as best you can with simple explanations. Consider using visual tools like calendars, clocks or photographs to help them remember. 

This video from UCLA Health offers insights and practical tips for managing repetitive questions.

May you find joy in loving one another well.

Elizabeth Dameron-Drew is the co-founder of Ways & Wane. She walked closely with her own father through his years of waning. She lives near Seattle, Washington with her two teenage sons, husband and two rescue dogs. When she’s not working on this platform she’s probably creating books, sewing, or vacuuming, or cooking while listening to the rain and thinking about her next creative endeavor.