There can be positives and negatives for family caregivers who maintain their own separate living spaces. While it is a totally separate space to get away to, it can also mean more time spent on the road driving to see and care for the loved one, including late nights or early mornings. Some families don’t have the option of having separate living arrangements such as the Kolb family in rural LaGrange, Kentucky.
Mary and Jim Kolb built their walkout house to be wheelchair accessible when their daughter, Mallory, experienced an anoxic brain injury at the age of seven. However, they also tried to be forward-thinking about their design plan. “[I said] Let’s just build [the basement] like a house so the elders could live there as needed,” Mary says. In addition to multiple bedrooms downstairs, there is a family room, a full kitchen, a laundry area, and bathrooms.
Now in her mid-30s, Mallory lives in the basement area, but soon after her childhood injury, her paternal grandparents lived with the Kolb family to help lend a hand with her care as well as tend to the needs of her sisters, Emily and Jessie, while Mary and her husband worked. After Mary’s mother broke her hip and couldn’t live alone anymore, Mary moved her into the downstairs part of the house. She says non-family caregivers who would help with Mallory were also very helpful in the care of her mom.
A background in occupational therapy has helped Mary manage some aspects of caregiving, but she says, “It takes a lot of communication and planning. Emotionally, it’s always a challenge.” Over the years, she found that endurance horseback riding has provided her both a physical and emotional release for her stress. She gets away for several days with fellow equestrians, camps, and rides her horse to renew herself.
By Carrie Vittitoe