written by Pamela Eelman, CHHC

When First Mother-In-Law, Mrs. Robinson, moved with her daughter and son-in-law into the White House, the Obamas became part of a growing national trend.

According to a recent survey conducted for Home Instead Senior Care, 43% of adult caregivers in the United States aged 35 to 62 reside with their parent, stepparent or older loved one for whom they or someone else in their household provides care. The Census Bureau confirms this growing trend. In 2000, 2.3 million older parents were living with their adult children; by contrast, in 2007, that number jumped to 3.6 million. That’s a staggering 55% increase in just 7 years.

Several factors are driving this trend. Families are coming together to share family care duties for economic reasons and emotional support. Sometimes the senior needs care but in some instances, those seniors are providing care to their own grandchildren.

While there are advantages to intergenerational living, the situation does present some unique challenges. It is a big decision and should be approached as such. Emotional, financial, comfort and safety issues are just a few of the many considerations. This information and relevant resource was compiled with assistance of three national experts: Matthew Kapland, PhD., Penn State’s Intergenerational Programs extension specialists; Adriance Berg, CEO of Generation Bold and a consultant on reaching boomers and seniors; and Dan Bawden, founder of CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialists) program for the National Association of Home Builders.

After careful consideration, if intergenerational living is the right option for your family, Home Instead offers the following tips:

* Take a family partnership perspective. Everyone needs to be informed and to give input into the household arrangements.
* Avoid conflict upfront by working to ensure that family members see eye-to-eye about each person’s roles and responsibilities. These responsibilities range from the simple chores to the more complex financial arrangements. Will the senior pay rent? What will that rent provide? Will utility bills and groceries be shared?
* Make family unity key: utilizing routines, rituals and traditions that bring the family together. Find threads of common interest and build on them to develop activities that are conducive to building deeper relationships. Researching ancestry, ethnic cooking, maintaining family photos, family game night – these are all excellent ideas.
* Distinguish between private space and common space and make sure that there are clear and defined boundaries. Are bedrooms off limits? The family office off limits?
* Make sure that the home is safe and secure for a senior. This may involve adding ramps or retrofitting bathrooms with grab bars. Other things may be easier, but no less important. Are things within easy reach without the need to bend or stand on a chair? Are there fall hazards like throw rubs, uneven floors, slippery wooden floors or a set of steps without a hand rail?
* If an elderly or ill relative is moving in and care is required, who will provide respite? Are there siblings or relatives to provide this service, or is a home care agency, like Home Instead, the better option?
* Make sure to allot time each week for yourself and for your relationship. An aging parent moving in can take it’s toll on the adult child’s health, as well as the health of a relationship. Make sure you keep this a priority.

As experts in the field of senior care, the founders of Home Instead Senior Care have just published a book that will assist adult children in all areas regarding their aging parents. “Stages of Senior Care” can be purchased at your local book store or through Amazon.com or you can contact your local Home Instead office at www.homeinstead.com. Intergenerational living is just one of the many topics addressed in this honest, reader-friendly book that is a must have for anyone who has an aging loved one.

Pamela Eelman is a Certified Holistic Health Counselor and founder of A Balanced Life. The subject of caring for our aging parents is a constant in her work with boomers. In additional to her private practice, she is the Community Service Representative for Home Instead Senior Care in Plumsteadville, Pennsylvania. You can reach her at www.abalanced-life.com or at peelman@homeinstead.com.

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