April 13, 2016
How to Renovate Your Home and Prepare Your Family for Aging Parents
It’s a reality for many families that your parents will need financial assistance as they age.
With the rise of the “sandwich generation”—baby boomers who are sandwiched between taking care of their children and their elderly parents—you may not have the resources to put your parents up in a five-star retirement facility, or you may want them to come home and live with your family. In either case, relocating your parents to the family homestead can be done, but it takes some work.
There are often renovation credits available to you if you’re retrofitting your home. The Ontario Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit, for example, offers up to 15% on $10,000 of renovations per year on upgrades—meaning up to $1,500—that are specific to seniors. These include, but aren’t limited to:
- Ramps, elevators, and stair lifts
- Walk-in bathtubs, shower grab bars, and hands-free taps
- Easy-to-use locks and handles
- Motion activated lighting
- Doorway widening and handrails
- Ground-floor bedroom renovations
- Lowering counters and cupboards in the kitchen
If you pay for the renovations, you can claim these expenses, or your parent moving in can claim them. Be sure to keep every receipt, in case you get audited.
There are a number of different alternatives for how and where to house your parents. Most families don’t have an extra bedroom to convert into a grandparents’ suite, so additions could be an option.
Additions can be costly, and building permits will be needed from your city. However, if you have the space, additions can be completed in as little as a month, depending on your needs. You’ll also want to talk to your parent about what they want. Ask some important questions:
- Do you want a separate entrance?
- What do you want to share with the main house? Bathroom? Front entrance? Kitchen?
Also, keep in mind the small upgrades you might have to make. Grab bars and clear-swing hinges are both common, so be sure to budget in a pocket for minor expenses, on top of the big stuff.
There are also small, stand-alone structures called “granny pods” that look like tiny houses in your backyard. They take the space of one or two sheds—like a tiny cottage—but are essentially fully functioning bachelor apartments. They connect to existing pipes and sewage and can be outfitted with special lighting, soft floorboards in case of a fall, wide doorways and no stairs for easy wheelchair access, and other perks.
You will need a special permit to build a granny pod, but it offers your parent a home close enough for support and far enough that they don’t feel reliant or intrusive. If you have the space and the money, these new structures are an excellent idea.
It’s not easy for a parent to accept that they have to move in with their children. An important first question is to actually ask whether or not your parent wants to move in with you. There may be other options, but some children just decide what their parents need, rather than considering alternatives.
You should establish ground rules for the entire family, including:
- When can and can’t grandma discipline the children?
- Should the children be allowed to go into grandma’s room?
- What times does grandma prefer to use the shower?
- What is the normal family timeline now? How can we adapt this to welcome grandma?
- What purchases are combined and which are separate? Food, bills, etc.
Be sure to accommodate those activities that are important to your parent. If she’s religious but can’t make it to church, for example, some ministers and religious leaders will make house visits. If she has regular bridge games, make an evening a week when she can have the main area, and the rest of the family goes to the movies. Find tasks where she can contribute, whether it be ironing or helping with cooking. Giving her freedom and making her feel useful when possible is essential to making her feel comfortable at all times.
There will also likely be medical professionals who will need to stop by, or you’ll have to make doctor’s runs. Be ready to budget in some time each week to help out when needed.
Although this can be a trying situation, when done properly the family unity can be so rewarding, especially for a grandparent. Consider what’s best for your parent, include them as much as possible, and the transition should be much smoother.
Flickr: Fredrik Enestad