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Ask Denise: Can We Convert the Garage for Him?

Dear Denise,

My brother-in-law suffered a stroke. The doctor said he was bleeding into the brain. After extensive Intensive Care at a Stroke Center, he is now in Rehab. We have been told that he will be there for about 6 weeks…..he seems to be showing improvement already, but the doctor indicates he will need “Assisted Living” for the rest of his life. He is presently 77 years young.

He is my husband’s only living sibling and we are wrestling with the problem of his being placed in an “Assisted Living Facility”, which I don’t think is the right thing for him. We are considering converting our garage into an apartment for him, where he will have privacy and independence, yet easy access to us, should he need it. At this point we are not sure how many of his facilities he will regain, although he seems to be quite alert.

Is this a bad idea and are we acting emotionally, without the proper regard for the care he will need?

I appreciate any feedback you could give me.


I am sorry to hear about your brother-in-law. I hope he continues to improve in rehab.

I think it’s a good idea to pursue the possibility of converting your garage. You have six weeks to determine which living solution will work best for all of you: Use the six weeks to research your options. Because he is in rehab, ask the staff for feedback on having your brother-in-law live in your converted garage. Ask them how you can create an apartment that will best meet his needs. Can they suggest contractors/remodelers that can create such an environment? (You also can search for home remodelers in our directory.) How much assistance with personal care will your brother-in-law need in the morning and throughout the day? Do you feel comfortable providing assistance? Which agencies/programs/services can help out?

Some questions for you and your husband to consider: How much time during the day and evening can you be available to help? Can you and your husband be available when needed? How will this living situation affect your lifestyle? Do you feel okay with any sacrifices you’ll have to make? Will other family members/friends help? Will you be able to make arrangements so you’ll be able to take regular vacations (taking regular vacations is critical to your well-being)?

Persons who have suffered a stroke may experience tremendous personality changes. Ask the staff for input on your brother-in-law’s emotional needs. Do they feel that you can manage these needs? Would he do well living near-by, but not necessarily with someone?

And, involve your brother-in-law, as much as possible, in the decision-making process. Where would he like to live? What are his concerns and worries?

Because you always want to research all options, check out assisted living facilities in your area. (Our directory also includes assisted living facilities.) Are there any that you like? That are convenient for regular visits? You’ll want to know about other housing options, even if your brother-in-law moves into the converted garage. Emergencies arise and you want to ensure that your brother-in-law receives the care he needs in any crisis.

Be sure to ask, and answer, all the “What if?” questions. What if your brother-in-law moves into the apartment and requires more care than you envisioned? What if, for whatever reason, the living situation just doesn’t seem to be working? In these situations, what will your next steps be?

Remember that you can modify any decision that you make. And, be sure to keep the lines of communication open between you, your husband and your brother-in-law. You’ll all have to work together to make living together work. But, you have an opportunity to spend some quality time together. I think it’s great that you’re pursuing making this opportunity a possibility.

Whatever your decision, your brother-in-law is very lucky to have you!

Let me know what happens!

Stumped by an on-going struggle? Searching for meaning in your journey? You’re not alone!

Family caregivers ask Denise M. Brown, Editor and Publisher,, for her insights and suggestions to their caregiving conundrums. Have a question for Denise? Just e-mail her. Denise will do her best to answer questions within 24 hours.

If you or your care recipient are in a crisis, we urge you to call a health care professional immediately for assistance. Denise only provides general insights about general situations. You should always consult your own lawyer, financial planner, health care professional and other professional advisors for advice specific to your situation.

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About Denise

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I began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched in 1996 to help and support them. Through my blog, I share words of comfort and offer coping strategies and tips. I also write opinion pieces about recent research, community programs and media coverage of caregiving issues. I've written several caregiving books, including "The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey," "Take Comfort, Reflections of Hope for Caregivers" and "After Caregiving Ends, A Guide to Beginning Again." You can purchase my books and schedule a coaching call with me in our store.

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