February 05, 2016By Ben Perry
For time immemorial and across cultures it was expected that several generations of families would live with and care for each other. As many nations embraced theories of government that emphasized the state’s role over that of the family and church, the state became the primary caretaker of the elderly. This tragedy has led to men and women separated from their loved ones in the twilight years of their lives. Countless families have been encouraged to live divided. The Bible says in 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” How then do we provide for our relatives?
Many elderly relatives choose and prefer isolated lives in the company of strangers. What are the reasons?
· They fear being a burden on their children.
· They want to take care of themselves for as long as possible.
· They are concerned their physical needs would overwhelm anyone except trained medical staff.
· They don’t see eye-to-eye with their grown children on spiritual matters.
· They simply don’t want to talk about it, concluding, “We live different lives.”
Yet the Bible says in Psalm 68:5, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” If we purpose to protect and care for what God does, how can we make our homes as welcoming shelters for our elderly relatives? How do we honor the grands in our lives, those who raised and cared for us for our first eighteen years?
In Proverbs 16:31 God says, “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” What wisdom is waiting to be imparted from these grand treasures to their children and grandchildren? Should we be preparing our homes for multi-generational living to honor the previous generation rather than keeping them away for lives of isolation in institutional settings?
My vision came from a desire to give families resources to adjust, remodel, or build a new environment for the Grands in their lives. Many people are daunted by the task of changing their built environment. As an architect, God has given me the tools to serve others in this area. What are the options when one is thinking of bringing a Grand home?
· Doors: Removing doors to rooms that don’t need privacy. Changing out door handles from knobs to levers, providing a grasp. Removing clutter in hallways so that a 44 inch wide path is clear of obstructions for a wheelchair to pass.
· Reachables: Putting most common household and kitchen items at countertop level for easy access. Making labels for drawers in large print for items that are most essential. Change normal wall switches to wide toggle switches. Replace standard faucets with ones with wrist blade handles. Add grab bars to bathrooms. Add transfer seats to showers. Replace standard toilet with ADA height toilet. Put the most dangerous items, like drugs, in an unreachable place.
· Phone: Install a phone just for home (even cell phone companies can add this to your regular cell plan) with important numbers on speed dial and other numbers posted nearby in large print.
· Purchase an emergency alert transmitter worn as a necklace or bracelet.
· Lights: Use a light meter to evaluate lighting levels inside and outside, replacing dim bulbs with brighter LED or CFL bulbs that use less energy. Have well-lit stairs. Add non-slip strips to stairs. Put certain lights on timers or use night lights so that late night bathroom trips (from bedroom to hallway to bathroom) are well-lit. Use curtains or blinds to reduce sunlight glare in the middle of the day.
· Paint: Repaint wall corners with contrasting colors. Add cornerguards to stairs.
· Remodel a bathroom/bedroom/kitchen to make it ADA accessible.
· Build ramps to front and back doors of the main level to mitigate troublesome steps.
· Purchase a lift chair, one that rises from the floor to help one stand up.
· Replace slippery flooring with slip resistant and glare-resistant flooring, whether it be sheet vinyl, linoleum, vinyl tile, ceramic tile, wood, or wood composite.
· Replace shaggy carpet with a low pile carpet that has less of a tripping hazard.
· Hire snow removal and/or a lawn service to verify outside paths are always safe and well-maintained.
· Add automatic door openers to doors used most.
· Add a completely new addition or work with an architect to design an entirely new house that creates a dedicated space for a Grand that respects privacy yet is considered part of the house.
Aside from these physical changes, a far more important responsibility is finances and legal considerations. It is absolutely necessary to discuss and finalize how care will be paid for and how to assist your loved one in a crisis. A Living Will, setting up a Trust, getting a POA (Power of Attorney) are necessary for important financial and medical decisions. A trusted attorney is essential in these matters.
Every situation is unique, but with God’s help, we can care for our Grands. It is our privilege to care for those in the twilight years who cared for us in our youth. With some planning and forethought a house can be modified to be a functional, safe, and beautiful place for multigenerational families to live together.
By Ben Perry. Learn more about Ben and his work on his website: www.perryarch.net.