Saturday, June 28, 2014
There's Not Enough Room For A Bed In There
The invalid room was one of a number of rooms that once occupied homes, but which have almost completely disappeared from the modern contractor's lexicon. The word invalid was derived from the negated form of the Latin word validus. Validus meant strong, and the negated form was created by adding to it the prefix in: producing in-validus, meaning un-strong, or infirmed. Although seldom used today in our super-pc (i.e. politically correct) society, a member of the family, often elderly and terminally ill, was referred to as an invalid. The invalid room was the bedroom in which the family cared for their invalid member.
It's hard to believe, but at one time we residents of the United States of America, like residents of many other countries, cared for our loved ones, when they became elderly and/or terminally ill, in our own homes. The elderly family members were not exiled to 'nursing homes' as soon as they started to cough. They were provided with a bed in a room on the ground floor of the house, often close to or beside the kitchen. In some cases, a side room would be converted into an invalid room simply by the addition of a bed, in others a room would be dedicated to the function. During the Nineteenth and early-Twentieth Centuries, houses were often constructed with an invalid room included in the original design. Until it needed to function as a bedroom for the infirmed member of the family, an invalid room might be employed as a 'den' or 'pantry' or a storage room. As noted, the invalid room was often close to the kitchen, making it convenient to provide for the needs of the infirmed person. Rather than having to carry trays of food or buckets of water to an upstairs bedroom, the family members simply needed to carry them from the kitchen into an adjoining room.
Perhaps the reason that many modern day families do not even consider caring for their elderly and infirmed members in their own homes is because their houses are not equipped with a room that can even be converted into an invalid room. Accomodating their invalid loved ones needs may seem so overwhelming because of the lack of a space that can function as an invalid room. It's a shame that houses are no longer built with long-term care of our elderly family members in mind.
The diagram at the top of this post shows the plans for a house typical of the early 1900s. The room highlighted in red could be used for any purpose; it was perfectly suitable to be used as an invalid room.