Two years ago we were deep in home renovations, and now I am perhaps ready to write about it. It was an intense process, but it has been worth it. I had a hard time finding advice on home renovations for dementia, so I will try to pull together what I learned here.
We already owned the house we renovated, but we did not live in it. When we had our second child and moved to a larger house, we kept our smaller house--living in a college town it rented for more than the mortgage payment (and that was a 15 year mortgage). It was rented for about 15 years, mostly to college students, so it was in bad shape. But I wanted to downsize and simplify our lives, and the small house had a lower level that was walk-in from a car port with no step at all. My husband didn't like the idea at all. He remembered the lower level of the house as damp and dark, and he didn't want to face moving. But he said when I got an idea in my head there was no stopping me. The picture below is the house before the work began.
What I want to focus on here is the renovation of the lower level, which became my husband's space. I had been frustrated in our previous house by his tendency to pile his stuff in any area I cleaned up, and because of his REM sleep behavior disorder and odd sleep patterns I was ready for separate bedrooms. So he was to have his own space on the lower level, and his chaos would stay there, sharing the space only with our son who was leaving for college. This is my husband's sitting room, which also has a desk.
The middle room has a sink and refrigerator, an eating table, and a corner nook with bed and large closet for our son. All three rooms got drywall over the cinderblock walls and laminate flooring (no rugs). We added two closets, one in the sitting room as well as the one for our son. We put in kitchen cabinets and counter and a new sink (the lower level had once been an apartment so there was already plumbing for a sink in the middle room). With a microwave on the counter my husband can make his own breakfast and lunch. The view through the door in the background is into his bedroom.
We ended up designing the bathroom with a toilet area on the other side of a load-bearing wall, so the doorway to the left in the picture above goes through that wall but does not have a door. A fold-down grab bar makes it possible to have bars on both sides of the toilet and a wall-hung sink would allow a wheelchair underneath. The lower half of the bathroom walls are painted blue to make it easier to see the white toilet. The toilet has a Toto Washlet water squirting seat. My husband was very dubious about the idea, but once he tried it he loved it. It is quite easy to install on any toilet if you have an electrical outlet next to the toilet. In selecting a toilet, I was careful to choose one with maximum flush capacity.
We also went ahead and put on a new roof and all new windows. The floors were refinished and all rooms were painted. The one major change we made in the structure of the house besides moving the lower level bathroom was to add a dormer to the attic bedroom, as the stairs came up to the wall in a way that the building inspector was never going to accept. We figured out the dimensions of the dormer as they cut the hole in the roof.