Your Place or Mine?

by John Stuck
When you begin to notice that your senior loved one is having difficulty maintaining independence in their Minneapolis home, families most often have some decisions to make. Could independence be maintained by hiring home care? Is Mom and/or Dad a candidate for a independent senior apartment? Maybe moving them to a Minnesota assisted living facility is the best option? More adult children are choosing to move their senior loved one into their home. That is why Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis created the Too Close for Comfort Campaign. Download this guide for boomers and the seniors who live with them.
too_close_for_comfort_booklet

The reasons different generations decide to live together are as varied as the families themselves, but three factors often come into play:

  • Shared Caregiving: Families are coming together to share caregiving duties — either an elderly loved one needs care or an older adult is providing care to his or her grandchildren.
  • Finances: The economy is affecting everyone, especially Minneapolis seniors living on fixed incomes. Moving in with family can sometimes save money on food, utilities, and other essentials.
  • Physical or Emotional Support: Seniors may feel the need for the physical or emotional support of extended family after losing a spouse, dealing with health issues, or having problems maintaining their property.

See how one family found the decision very easy to make and how they’re making cohabitation work for their entire family.

If you’re already living the intergenerational life, perhaps your family has encountered a few challenges. Regardless of the situation, you or your senior loved ones probably have many questions, such as:

  • Is it best financially to maintain separate residences or to move in together?
  • Do you have the resources to take care of your elderly loved one in your home or should you hire home care? Read our latest blog post on the cost of home care and how to pay for it..
  • What role will adult siblings play?
  • If you’re a senior, will you lose your independence?
  • Should you move Mom or Dad to your home, or should you move into theirs?
  • Is the home safe for a senior and, if not, what changes need to be made?
  • How do you handle separate bank and savings accounts, and joint expenses?
  • Are there young children at home? If so, what do they think about it?

senior_family_meetingCommunication is the key to making your combined family work, says Matthew Kaplan Ph.D., Penn State Intergenerational Programs extension specialist. “Families must address the issues at hand — from multiple perspectives — when they arise…Ask yourself, ‘What can we do to come together and figure things out?'”

Independent research conducted by the Boomer Project on behalf of Home Instead Senior Care sheds new light on the growing population of family caregivers who are choosing to live with and provide home care for a parent.  One of the factors driving this trend is the need for emotional support. For details, view and print the Executive Summary of this research.

The Ups and Downs of Living Together

So what do multigenerational families say about the experience? Living together has its ups and downs.

Positive feelings of care and accomplishment can mix with stress. “Each family member has needs that should be taken into consideration. Individual needs, though, need to be viewed in the context of the health of the overall family unit. People need independence, but interdependence and family unity are important as well, particularly in today’s hectic and demanding world,” Kaplan says.

Support, Inside and Out

If families are living together and seniors need care, adult children will need support inside the home, whether the support comes from other family members or in the form of professional respite assistance.

“The best time to discuss this issue is when you’re willing to give up your house,” Kaplan notes. “That’s when it’s time to get your spouse and children behind the idea and communicate with adult siblings. Talk to your brothers and/or sisters and let them know you may need respite help.”

“When a decision to combine families is made, expectations must be set right away,” he said. “Family members must listen and become engaged in the conversation. The more the family buys in at the beginning, the more likely they will be to come up with great ideas.”

Setting aside time for your nuclear family is important too. “Consistent daily scheduling allows for formal and informal interaction,” Kaplan recommends. “If you do things right, the result is a strong, more unified family.”

Home Instead Senior Care worked with Matthew Kaplan Ph.D. to develop these tips for the multigenerational family.

  1. Take a family partnership perspective. Everyone needs to be informed and to give input into the arrangements.
  2. Set expectations right away. People understand it’s not just what they get out of it, but how they fit into the family.
  3. Ask for help. Engage your children in responsibilities around the home and make it clear to adult siblings that you expect them to be involved. If extended family members will not help with respite care, arrange for a professional caregiver service.
  4. Distinguish between private space and shared space. Shared space should be stocked with material inviting for all ages and items that could stimulate discussion, such as a child’s project or “brag book” of photos. Make clear rules regarding the private spaces set aside for each member of the household.
  5. Make family unity key. Routines, rituals and traditions help draw the family unit together. Plan a family movie or game night or take a walk together.
  6. Keep lines of communication open. Recognize the importance of “my time” and “our time.” Try to take everyone’s needs into account. Visit www.4070talk.com for more information about bridging the communication gap between seniors and their boomer children.
  7. Find threads of common interest and build on those to develop deeper relationships. Focus on activities that provide simple ways to generate a common bond, such as ethnic cooking, family history, health or wellness.

“The main challenge of a multigenerational family is navigating individual needs and family needs,” Kaplan noted. With open communication and a well thought-out plan, the process of moving and experience living together with a senior loved one can be beneficial and rewarding.

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