The Multi-Generational Family
Many of us are managing our multi-generational family. We may have children at home, we the parents, and our own parents, often in need of extra help with daily living. Balancing the needs of parenting our children and assisting our parents often leaves us drained and without energy for ourselves.
Opinions abound on how to manage. Some will say to utilize day care for children and adult care for our seniors. Others will suggest that your seniors need to live in either assisted living or nursing home, removing that part of the responsibility. Some just dig in and manage.
Not that long ago, almost all families were multi-generational; it’s just the way it was. A few children were sent to boarding school and a few seniors were cared for by others, but most families managed their children and elderly. How did they do it?
Multi-generational families a hundred years ago were so very different in many ways. Retirement was based on the need to quit working, not the person’s age. Moreover, social security did not exist. People saved when they could, worked as long as they could, and families cared for one another.
A huge benefit to those multi-generational families of long ago was the closeness of the family. Seniors were quite helpful in teaching younger generations, mentoring, and helping on a daily basis. There was something most could do.
Children in these families often learned skills, habits, and life lessons from parents and grandparents. They felt connected to the entire family of all ages as they lived together and were inter-dependent.
Today’s lifestyle is often quite different than that of a hundred years ago. But after a few decades of seniors being shifted to nursing homes, we see a resurgence of bringing them home to live those golden years with the family. That model looked so easy on The Waltons tv show, but realities are often quite different.
For those who have grown up in a multi-generational family, the changes are less pronounced or not even noticed. Each person ages through the years and the daily interaction allows for a fairly smooth transition.
For most of us, the change is a more sudden change. Your youngest child may be only a toddler when Grandma develops heart disease and needs to move in with the family. Suddenly, Mom is caring for an aging mother while still raising young children. It can be quite a stress, especially if the aging parent has any amount of mental decline or requires a large amount of physical care.
Sudden changes might necessitate major changes. One parent might need to be home all the time. Paid caretakers can be helpful, but they may be costly and not as predictable as family members. Even our housing may require changes.
Even our housing may require changes.
If the family home is not large enough, it may require room adjustments or perhaps even a move to a new home. Some have found that the granny pod model solves the need for more room while offering some privacy for our senior parents.
Moving a senior parent home is much different than all growing together from the start. Since most families have lived apart, moving back together can create tensions and problems that most have never considered. What time are your meals served? Favorite foods of seniors might be quite different than the family normally enjoys. Seniors often awaken earlier than the average household and may require earlier bedtimes.
Grandparents usually love being with family, but sometimes need some quiet time, too. Adjusting to times schedules and normal routines may prove challenging, but families that work through these adjustments find life together quite satisfying.
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