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Dear Dale:

Think Ahead When Parents Moving In

July 20, 1986

Question: My elderly parents can no longer live alone, so my husband and I plan to move them into our home. Our house really isn't large enough to accommodate them, but we like the location and don't want to move. We've decided instead to make major changes in our home, much of which my parents will pay for. They will have their own suite of rooms with direct access to our house.

While doing this major job, I plan to make some changes in our living quarters and have hired an architect. Because one firm or one person can't think of everything, I'd like to have your thinking on what to do to an older house, both in our living area and the suite for my parents.

Answer: That's a tall order, and there's no way I could cover in this space the ideas I would have for your renovation.

Off the top of my head, however, be sure to prepare for the time when your parents will be less able to care for themselves. Is there easy access to their bath from their bedroom, for instance? Are the bath fixtures suitable for the time when they will have difficulty getting into and out of the tub or shower? Have you thought of hand rails by the tub and toilet to be prepared for later infirmities and to help prevent falls?

Also, you may want to spend some time thinking about the wiring that goes into your renovation. For example, you may want to install an intercom system or a simple buzzer system that would enable your parents to call you, should they become ill or need your help in a hurry. While wiring for video to allow you to see their rooms would no doubt be an invasion of privacy now, it might be handy to have should they become bedfast at a later time.

Although you don't plan to have a kitchen in your parents' suite, you might install wiring and plumbing for some later time when you may want to convert the suite into a rental apartment (providing your area is zoned for two-family dwellings or you can likely get an exception to the zoning).

On the other hand, should you decide to integrate their suite into your living quarters at a later time, consider carefully where you add the suite. Will the location of their suite be appropriate for a guest room or children's room later? Will the additional bathroom be accessible to areas of your house other than the suite?

As to your own living quarters, you want to consider improvements that will actually increase the value of your home, as well as conform to your taste.

House Beautiful's Summer Home Remodeling issue (on newsstands now, $2.95) contains an article by Walter Updegrave on improvements that do or don't add value to your home.

As an example, he points out that adding a full bathroom is a good short- or long-term investment, addition of a fireplace is "perhaps the best investment."

The article also covers room additions, kitchen remodeling and swimming pools.

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