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June 24, 2017
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The ups and downs of living together

By: Julie Ann Soukoulis
May 26, 2017

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 care for a parent, stepparent or older relative. One of the factors driving this trend is the need for emotional support.

Living together has its ups and downs.

Positive feelings of care and accomplishment can mix with stress. Matthew Kaplan, Ph.D., Penn State Intergenerational Programs extension specialist, says that 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,” he adds.

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.”

The Best & the Worst

Home Instead Senior Care research of family caregivers who reside with their loved ones reveals that living under the same roof generates the best and worst of conditions.

For those who live with their parents, the best thing about being a caregiver is:

 For those who live with their parents, the worst thing about being a caregiver is:

 

7 Tips to make it work

 

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.   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.

5.   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.

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.   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.

“The main challenge of a multigenerational family is navigating individual needs and family needs,” Kaplan noted.

Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’s love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.