In-lawin-law suites suites make a great addition to any home. For some households, they provide an opportunity to have family members come for a visit without violating anyone’s privacy (or forcing Grandma to sleep among a bunch of stuffed animals in your 7-year-old daughter’s room). For other families, however, an in-law suite is less of a luxury and more of a necessity. As parents age and become more frail or fraught with health issues, in-law suites are an excellent way to be able to care for them while still allowing them the comfort and independence of living at home rather than in a care facility.

Here are a few things to consider when planning an in-law suite for an aging parent or loved one.

Building Up or Out?

With any home addition, one of the first questions homeowners must ask is whether to build up or out. This matter can get complicated when you’re planning an addition for a loved one with mobility issues. First-floor in-law suites are generally more easily accessible to elderly people who have trouble moving up and down stairs or who may move around with the aid of a walker or wheelchair. Access to a second-floor suite is possible, but it will require options such as installing an elevator (which is expensive and takes up a great deal of space) or a chair-lift that your loved one can sit in to ride up and down the stairs. Talk to your contractor to find out what options will work best for your home and your needs.

Attached or Detached?

Another consideration in planning in-law suites involves how much observation your loved one will need and how different types of home additions can accommodate that. In some cases, you may want to have them close, but want them to be able to feel as though they have their own apartment/dwelling that’s independent of the main house. Some people opt to turn a detached garage into an in-law suite or build a stand-alone guest house for this purpose. In other cases, your loved one may require more direct observation and care. If this is the situation with your parent or in-law, it makes more sense to convert part of the current house into an in-law suite or build on an attached addition.

When Building In-Law Suites, Consider Your Loved One’s Needs

When budgeting for this kind of home addition, it’s important to list out the things that are necessities for your loved one to be safe and happy. We’ve already discussed thinking about whether the addition should be on the first floor or whether you can accommodate a second-floor addition, as well as whether it should be attached or detached. Other considerations are things like the following: if you’re planning a sort of independent living apartment for your parent or in-law, should it include a small kitchen (or would this pose a fire risk to them)?

If there are any steps leading up and into your house (or the area where their dwelling will be), how can you construct a ramp to provide access? You’ll need to make sure to include a shower with a walk-in design as opposed to a traditional step-in bathtub/shower combination. If your loved one has problems seeing, additional lighting could help them with reading or finding their way around.

The wonderful thing about creating in-law suites is that it allows us to customize a safe, comfortable environment for our parents and in-laws. This way, they can live among the familiarity of loved ones — from their kids to their grand kids and extended family — who get to enjoy spending time with them every day.