A Family Heritage: Remodeling a Whole House for a Family Coping With Dementia
Clients Jim and Grace have helped to remodel their daughter’s home and will be moving in shortly. Downsizing, relocating and sharing space with others would be a significant challenge for anyone, however their situation is made more complex by the fact that Grace has also been living with dementia for a number of years. When we sat with the families, they shared their concern about minimizing the impact of this transition on Grace, as people with dementia can have a very hard time adjusting to change, both in their environments and in their routines.
According to the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Commission in Virginia, approximately one in eight older adults is affected with Alzheimer’s disease – a number that is expected to triple by 2050.
Our concerns immediately aligned with that of the family members, and we all shared the goal of giving Grace as easeful a transition into the new space as possible.
As part of a truly unique design, the two most familiar rooms in Grace and Jim’s current home – the living room and the “Heritage” room, named for the nostalgic items within the space – were measured and mapped out in order to create a private, almost replica, of those rooms on the main floor of their daughter’s home.
The new Heritage Room is entered off of the communal space and allows for Jim and Grace’s private living. It includes their couch, precious family photos and furniture, and personal touches. It is truly a piece of their original residence within their new home. It is a space where Grace can be familiar with her surroundings and be comfortable spending time with her family, children, and grandchildren; or where she can relax in peace and quiet alone.
As best as possible, we also replicated their bathroom layout, giving her a familiar space to tend to her needs, while making it accessible for Jim to assist her, as well as home health workers who may need to help with her care in the future. The functionality of their bathroom was key, so items were incorporated throughout including grab bars and a large shower with benches in order for someone to assist her.
With aging in place becoming more and more realistic, certified aging in place specialists, such as our John Benedetto, are learning how to make small comforts in the home a life-changing experience. Being on the first floor of the home, Jim and Grace have easy access to the communal kitchen space, safe entry in and out of the house, and ease of interaction with guests, as well as the other family members in the home.
They are currently renting back their recently sold space to live in while the remodel is taking place, and can’t wait to begin the next phase of their journey together in their new home.
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