A Home for All Seasons

By+Kathy Jonas, Photos by David Hubler

Chad and Julie Massey are the very definition of the “sandwich generation.” They have two children ages 10 and 13 and are taking care of Julie’s aging parents.

Unlike many in this situation, though, the Masseys found a way to avoid feeling “sandwiched.” The couple recently completed a 1,000 square foot addition to their home. The existing home accommodates their immediate family and the addition supports the changing needs of her parents. 

They first worked with JP and Marlow Hoyer of Home Instead and then Jeff Stuber of HomeSafe 4 Seniors. HomeSafe is a new business that helps keep seniors in a home environment as long as possible. The builder, Steve Kovatch of Solution Builders, executed the carefully planned in-law suite, which is attached to the first floor of the main home.

There are no stairs or floors with different heights; doors are 36-inches wide for possible use of a wheelchair; showers and bathrooms are equipped with grab bars and a large open space includes the kitchen and living room in one. Larry Hupp, the architect who designed the space, made sure the addition is filled with lots of natural light. On cloudy days, there is recessed lighting to cheer things up – keeping in mind the necessity of making sure seniors do not get their days and nights mixed up.

Stuber said the Masseys’ addition incorporated a growing trend – universal design. Universal design means the space is aesthetically pleasing but also incorporates features that can be used by anyone – including the handicapped or elderly. “What’s new about universal design is changing the thought process,” Stuber said. It is estimated by the Pew Research Center that one in eight Americans aged 40 to 60 are raising children and taking care of a parent. This means thinking about having less overhead cabinetry and more drawer appliances or lower-level storage areas. “But at the same time, these designs don’t scream out handicapped-accessible,” Stuber said.

The Masseys, who moved here from the Dallas area, said they wanted her parents, Ron and Paula Miner, to be near her.  Ron is a retired American Airlines pilot who flew C-130 military transport aircrafts in the Marine Corps in Vietnam. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at age 67 and is now 73. Both parents had been in assisted living together in Texas, but she didn’t want them to be separated if her father needed to go into memory care. Her mother has other health issues and needs management of her medications.

The Masseys have hired three caregivers who work from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. and Julie and Chad take care of the evening shifts. “At one time I didn’t think having someone come in the house would be enough for them, but it’s worked out so well.” And Chad has taken on the job of showering her dad, which requires some strength and a lot of tending loving care. 

Julie said the caregivers are funny, generous and warm. They brainstorm regularly about her parents’ situation and help keep everyone on the same page. Her dad watched the 9-week construction process and enjoyed all the activity. 

She said the addition was important because it allows her children to experience her parents in a new way, but it also maintains privacy for both her immediate family and for her parents. Ultimately, Ron and Paula have a “best-case scenario” – they are with family and have individualized care. 

Stuber said looking at the individual family’s needs is critical: not everyone requires an extensive addition such as the Massey’s. HomeSafe 4 Seniors assesses the space and gives advice on “realistic remodeling” for all situations. “The goal is making sure your parents are safe and comfortable,” he said. 

Julie admitted that being a caregiver to her parents and the mom of two growing, active children is exhausting at times. “I know I won’t ever regret doing this. That’s the bottom line,” she said. 

Editor's Note - Ron Miner passed away on February 5. We extend our condolences to his family.

“Don’t let your house be the reason you have to leave your home.” Learn more about aging in place at HomeSafe 4 Seniors at www.homesafe4seniors.com or call 574-217-8299.