It was late at night when the phone rang at Jan Horst's house.
It was her mother, telling her that she was in great pain and that she needed her.
"I just had to walk downstairs and take her to the hospital," said Jan, whose mother suffered a ruptured appendix. "She could have died. I was so thankful I was right there."
Later came a case of pneumonia, when, again, Jan was right there to help her mother and be at her side.
"There's no place like home, and I can manage her care," Jan said.
Jan, her husband, John, their four sons and her mother, Delora Howerton, may all live under one roof in Howard County, but they have two distinct homes.
Howerton, 78, lives in her own "in-law suite," while the rest of the family members have their own space.
Specifically designed with the main house three years ago, Howerton's residence includes a living room, fireplace, bathroom, kitchen, private entry and pathway. She even has her own phone line.
With the rising costs of housing, combined with spiraling costs of assisted-living communities, many adult children and their elderly parents are coming together again. Builders across the region say requests for such suites are becoming more commonplace.
In-law suites may be designed for the basement level - like Howerton's - or be a more elaborate wing of the house.
"I wouldn't have my old house back for anything," Howerton said of her former Bowie home of 36 years. "I was getting so old I couldn't keep it up. And the kids I hired to help me would quit. It was a mess and a worry. Here, I can see nothing but trees."
Howerton realized that institutional care wasn't going to agree with her after she had hip surgery and spent several days in a rehab hospital.
"A lot of my friends went into assisted-living places. They come here and say that I made the right choice," Howerton said of her new living quarters.
"As more people age, there will be more of a demand for [in-law suites] because of sheer numbers," said Leslie Marks, executive director of senior housing for the National Association of Home Builders. "The in-law suite allows you to watch out for a parent, but also leaves independence for both the children and parents.
"It's time to begin a dialogue and visit this issue."
Various studies have shown that 80 percent to 90 percent of senior citizens want to remain in their own homes until they die - they want to "age in place." But Marks said that over the next five years, the remaining 10 percent to 20 percent will increase at a 6 percent rate and represent "big numbers of people wanting alternative housing like in-law suites."
"A lot comes back to the issue of care-giving," said Pamela Tainter-Causey, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Aging. "More adult children are caring for their elderly parents. This may factor into these [in-law suite] arrangements."
Of key concern, she said, are financial circumstances, medical conditions and the parent-child relationships.
"Their relationships aren't always conducive to living in close quarters. Many seniors view a change to be kind of like a surrender. If the parents can afford to live close by [but not on the property], it can be better in that case," Tainter-Causey said.
At Colleen and Walter Regner's northern Baltimore County home, completed in April, incorporating her parents into their home life has been a positive experience.
"We decided to build because my parents are in their 70s and their neighborhood had changed. The upkeep was hard, too," Colleen Regner said.
"I leave for work at 6:30 a.m.," she said. "My mom can do the school bus. It really simplifies things and saves us child care money. Dad doesn't have to shovel snow and mow, but he still has a nice yard to take walks in.
"I feel like my parents are set for life, and I can take care of each one. They're safe and we have no worries about their health. They seem content - and they get a lot of time with their grandchildren. It's good for the kids, too."
When building these suites, it helps to include everyone in the planning. Howerton said her space suits her just fine because her daughter, Jan Horst, and the builder mapped out exactly what they wanted before they broke ground.
Cooking is a passion for Howerton, so she wanted a full kitchen. She also wanted large windows to brighten the place and a 9-foot ceiling to avoid a closed-in, basement feel.
They were even careful when positioning the upper rooms of the main house so Howerton wouldn't hear footsteps above her at night. To get to the main house, Howerton has the choice of using her private path or climbing the double-railing steps.
"We questioned whether my mom wanted the main floor or to be below. She has a private walkout and she opted for more space," Horst said.
The Regners say it's important to set boundaries. They personally have a casual schedule with few rules - but they did consider her parents' privacy when designing the residence.