Searching For An Alternative To A Nursing Home? An ADU Might Be the Answer

ADUs can help you manage your elder family member’s new living situation, while preserving everyone’s integrity and space.

We are currently experiencing a difficult moment for elder care and housing across the world. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are vulnerable to the spread of the pandemic; California is dealing with this issue as much as any state.

Elderly populations are disproportionately vulnerable to the pandemic, and the design of nursing homes and assisted living facilities makes it very difficult to provide care while enforcing shelter in place.

Nursing homes also struggle with poor regulation and management; research demonstrates that these facilities deal with staffing issues and struggle to maintain sanitary spaces as residents are ferried back and forth from the hospital. While they are a great option for many, they are certainly not the right option for everyone.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have taken full measures and precautions in response to the Coronavirus, including limiting outside visitors, canceling group social activities, and more. Unfortunately, as we learn more about the pandemic, this isn't enough.

Many concerned families are taking their parents out of these facilities and bringing them to live with them at home. They are doing this to prevent their loved ones from exposure and keep them safe during the pandemic. Bringing family members home is generally a good decision, assuming that elderly family members do not need expanded care and support, like a 24-hour nurse.

The Challenge of Move-In

This change introduces its challenges. If you're thinking about bringing your family members into your home, remember to consider the following questions (courtesy of

  1. Will you be able to provide proper support and care, including eating, dressing, going to the bathroom, and taking medication?
  2. Is your space safe for your family members to navigate, and are there proper rails in place?
  3. If you have a family member with Alzheimer's or Dementia, will you be able to manage their behavior or potential confusion effectively?
  4. Are you able to maintain proper sanitary standards in the house to prevent spread? If someone in your household needs to leave the house for work, how will you defend and protect your elderly family member?
  5. Is this a permanent move into your home, or will your family member return to the nursing home after the pandemic is over?

None of these questions are necessarily easy to answer, but it is best to answer them as soon as possible to ensure the most comfortable and safe living arrangement for you and your family.

From Temporary to Permanent

Nobody was ready for these changes. Nonetheless, it is forcing us to reconcile with challenges that affect our families.

The truth is that the nursing home crisis has been so bad that many families will never send their elder family members back to a facility ever again. There is too much fear, trauma, and pain around this topic.

And so if Mom or Dad, Grandma or Grandpa, or any other family members are now at your home, or soon to be arriving, it is important to consider a likely scenario where a nursing home is no longer an option. You will need to find a solution where they can live closer to the family, and you can keep them safe.

The sudden entrance of elderly family members into your homes may cause disruption and adjustments in routines. But there is hope; there are solutions available to you that will increase your amount of living space in your home and improve your ability to care for your loved one.

The Need For Space

Eldercare is not just about the logistics of managing your family members' needs. It is also deeply emotional. If your family member is dealing with health challenges, sometimes it feels like it can take over your life. Or maybe it's the same old family dynamics, reliving past conflicts.The complexity of this situation means that you probably don't want to be around your aging family member 24/7, as much you love them. Space is emotionally healthy when dealing with confusing things.

Even if the challenges that you are dealing with are relatively manageable, it's still nice to have your own space. If your elder family member isn't going back to the nursing home, it's time to start considering how to create that additional space while preserving your own.

ADUs as a Solution

If you haven't heard of accessory dwellings units (ADUs), you might be interested to learn more. ADUs are second units added to residential properties; think garage conversions or backyard apartments.

They are fully functional separate housing units, with kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, and living space. They're aptly nick-named granny flats because elders so often inhabit them. They are a comfortable downsize from full-scale housing while maintaining the comfort and autonomy of living in your own home.

The State Government legalized ADUs across the state of California, and anyone can build an ADU on their residential property, assuming the construction is in line with proper codes. The difference between an ADU and addition or renovation is that the latter is effectively a new home. You can rent it out, or house a family member.

If your home is filled with difficult-to-climb stairs (an obstacle for elderly family members), a garage conversion could provide all of the necessary living space. Similarly, if you need to hire a stay-at-home aide for caretaking, you can add a second bedroom in the ADU.

The Road Ahead

Building an ADU isn't an overnight decision, but you may be dealing with a sense of urgency related to your new family situation. If so, there is hope to create a more comfortable living arrangement for your entire family while keeping your aging family member close.

Learn more about building an ADU in California at