Creating a Multigenerational Household: Tips for the Caregiver
Many factors are contributing to the current trend of multigenerational households. First, more people are living into their 90s due to advances in medicine and preventative health. Second, many Baby Boomers have waited until their 30s to start their families. Third, cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, as well as, rising nursing home and assisted living expenses have resulted in many seniors moving in with their adult children. Consequently, more than one generation will be living under the same roof at a given time.
While this may be overwhelming for the caregiver, it does not have to be. In fact, some studies have shown that people caring for aging relatives found some aspects of the task rewarding. In addition, caregivers who are emotionally and psychologically well and have a positive view of the care giving role fare better than those who do not. For instance, their problem solving and coping abilities are more effective. Becoming a member of a support group is one way to ensure that the caregiver's needs and concerns are being met. Regular exercise and time for relaxation are also beneficial to the caregiver. If the caregiver takes care of herself physically and mentally, then she is better able to care for her aging love one.
Another area of concern is the decision to move your loved one into the home. Having an aging parent move into the home should be a family decision since it affects everyone. Thus, the aging relative and the rest of the family members should discuss and hear each others needs. You may find that your parent or relative would prefer to live in familiar surroundings with friends, in an assisted living facility or in a retirement community. Moreover, you should candidly discuss, as a family, the potential problems of creating a multigenerational household. As the caregiver, you should also be mindful that unresolved conflicts may resurface between you and your loved one. Try to resolve these conflicts if possible. If they cannot be resolved, anticipate and plan for how you might deal with them.
One typical area of conflict centers around role reversal. Adult children may feel as though they are parenting their parents. Elderly parents may feel that they are being treated like children by their children. Although, you may be the primary source of emotional, financial, or physical support for your parents, it is not the same as raising them. Remember your parent is an individual who may be coping with declining faculties, deaths of friends and relatives, their own mortality, loss of purpose, loss of physical capacity, or loss of status.
Finally, remember that having an older generation in the home can be a blessing to the younger generation. They are a source of wisdom, experience and love. You may want to create activities with your children and your parents that draw on their experience and knowledge. Discussing meaningful memories and creating new ones is one such activity you might try. For instance, you could create a memory jar in which your parent would store a short description of a meaningful memory. For each one of your parent's old memories, the children can write/create a new memory to place in the jar with the old memory. Your parents could also help to bring history to life for your children. Your children will help your parents stay connected to the present. Both will benefit from the time and love of the other. This may also be an opportunity for your parent or loved one to learn that they still have a purpose in life.
For more insight into caring for an aging parent, you may want to check out the following books:
The Complete Guide to Eldercare by Anita Jones-Lee and Melanie Callendar
The Aging Parent Handbook by Virginia Schomp
The Baby Boomer's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents by Bart Astor
How to Care for Your Parents: A Practical Guide to Eldercare by Nora Jean Levin.
Karmon Sears, M.S.W., MDC Psychometrist.