Cottaging with Seniors: A Caring Primer

Cottaging with Seniors: A Caring Primer

Last month, I wrote about travelling with elderly parents. Today I’m going to tell you how I managed to take my Mom to a cottage for two weeks when she was 86.

You may remember that Mom had dementia. She was bladder incontinent and used a walker. She couldn’t walk far before becoming out of breath. So there were lots of medical issues to consider when choosing a cottage.

I did my research and found a cottage on level ground, with a driveway that went right up to the front door. A washing machine was also a “must have”. A clothesline would do for drying the laundry.  And there would be no outhouse for these ladies!  An indoor shower and toilet were essential.

cottaging with seniors

Next, Mom and I had a good chat so that we both had the same expectations of our time together up north. Mom always loved being at a cottage. She was once a strong swimmer, but there would be no swimming this time. I knew I wasn’t strong enough to haul my mother out of the water. Nor had she the leg power to climb the ladder from the water onto the dock. (I used a spray bottle filled with lake water to mist over Mom to cool her off on the hotter days).  Boating was also out. But, there was still a lot that Mom could enjoy. There was a lovely deck she could get to easily.  It was the perfect place to enjoy the sunshine, the cooling breezes and the gorgeous scenery. We would have each other for company, and could enjoy BBQ dinners, delicious lunches and leisurely breakfasts. Talking books, conversation and lovely music filled the bill for entertainment.

I booked the cottage and began planning my packing for our holiday. I brought along a waterproof mattress protector, and large absorbent sheets with plastic backing that we could stick onto Mom’s bottom sheet. Originally made for children who are being toilet trained, these bed mats are a real blessing. Extra bed sheets and a couple of packages of Depends rounded out Mom’s incontinence kit.

I made sure Mom’s walker could fit through every doorway (the cottage owners measured them). I packed Mom’s shower chair too, to give her stability while bathing. I also planned our meals with care, knowing that my shopping ability would be restricted. And I packed lots of warm clothing for Mom, because she usually felt chilly!  Admittedly, by the time I had packed the car there was barely room for its passengers, but we somehow fit ourselves in.

We were off!

I won’t kid you. With just the two of us at the cottage all the work fell onto my shoulders. But I gladly accepted the extra effort. Mom was excellent company and I had long since become accustomed to listening to Mom ask the same question (or tell the same story) repeatedly.  We ate well, spent lots of time talking and listening to music. Mom loved to sit on the deck and enjoy the view. The scampering chipmunks amused her and she loved to watch the hummingbirds feed.  It wasn’t long before Mom had a golden suntan. She even enjoyed watching me as I went about my business of caring for her and feeding the two of us. Oh, we had some great feasts!

We spent our final night at the cottage by the campfire. The stars were brilliant and the glow from the fire was cheerful and comforting. We sang all the old songs, sipped wine and sat by the fire for a couple of happy hours.

Mom was quiet during the first part of our drive home the next day. I was happy with my own thoughts and enjoyed the drive. Then she told me,“thank you darling, for a marvelous time at the cottage.  It was our best holiday ever!”

All the planning and organizing was worth it. Giving Mom the gift of those two weeks still warms my memory. The time was a gift to me too.


Martie is a professional writer. She looked after her mother for six years. She has written extensively about elder care and her own experience caring for her mother through the aging process.