April 30, 2016 | Home Buying
We are excited to welcome our guest Ellen Greiss to share her experiences living with and caring for elderly parents.
Multigenerational homes come with their own unique share of challenges and rewards. If you live in a multigenerational home, or are considering it for your family, you're not alone. U.S. Census Bureau data says that 16.7 percent of Americans live with a least two adult generations #underoneroof.
Making the decision
Last year, after a series of falls by both of my octogenarian parents, I decided that the time had come to sit them down and discuss where they go from here. Clearly, with 3 flights of stairs to climb in their townhouse and me living 90 minutes away, something had to give. They adamantly refused to go into an assisted living facility ("because they're for old people," was their excuse) and, fortunately, my work allows me a certain amount of flexibility in where I choose to live. So we began looking in earnest and settled on a large condo, all on one floor, where I would essentially have my own semi-private rooms (with a full bathroom) on the opposite side of the home. There are no steps in or out of the building, everything is handicapped accessible (it's a 55+ residence) and, of course, there is an elevator in the building.
As a mother of two grown sons, I knew I was in a position to be able to stay with my parents for half the week (working part-time and, occasionally, from home) and still maintain my life, as it is, including having some much needed space and time to myself. I must mention here that THAT is key. In much the same way (as young mothers) we're told to take some time for ourselves so we can give our all to our children, precious 'ME' time is tantamount to making this kind of arrangement work.
If I had to describe our living arrangement, I'd say it is very much a work-in-progress. That said, it's only fair that I concede it must be a little challenging for my parents as well as for myself. I haven't lived at home since I went away to college at age 17 - so, naturally, we have all changed quite a bit and we each have our habits and idiosyncrasies. Aging certainly adds a new level of challenges to the mix but we have mostly settled into a routine that I believe works for us one and all. By giving my parents one full day a week of my undivided time and attention (for their doctors appointments, lunches with friends and assorted errands) as well as any other weekday morning before I leave for work, we're able to accomplish everything on our busy to-do list.
One interesting and unexpected turn of events was the emergence of my blog: hellomuddahhellofadduh. I like to think of it as both therapeutic (for myself) and as beneficial (for my parents - and others experiencing life-changing situations). It allows us to find humor in our daily trials and tribulations and reminds us that, at the end of the day, it's all about love and respect and lots and lots of patience!
We definitely have our ups and downs. Some days are way longer than I think I have the strength to endure. I've learned more than my share about diabetes, macular degeneration, elder care and 'the (not so) golden years.' I now have to park in the handicapped spot; I know all the names of the medications my parents take (and regularly pick them up from the pharmacy); I drive them to see doctors that I never even knew existed; I'm now recognized at the library, the bank, the barber, the grocery store and most of the take-out restaurants in the area; and I'm even on one of the condo-board committees so that I have some say in the safety and general goings on around our new community.
Reaping the rewards
Whatever difficulties we may have had to endure this last year, the benefits of this very unusual and unique living arrangement far outweigh them. I consider this a gift - the fact that I am so lucky to still have both my parents with me. When I decided to be a stay-at-home mom and raise my children myself, I took a lot of criticism from people who told me I should stay at work and hire someone else to look after them. I didn't agree with that logic then and, obviously, I still don't. My parents gave me life just as I gave life to my children. It's not a part time job - it's a lifetime commitment.
I have no regrets in either case. I can only, hopefully, share my experiences through this guest post and from my own personal blog posts at http://ellengreiss.wordpress.com.
Living with and caring for elderly parents is not a choice to be made lightly. It may not be the right choice for everyone. It takes a lot of hard work (as do most worthwhile things in life) but it can be one of the most rewarding and selfless things you will ever do.
If you would like to read more about my life as a stay-at-home-fiftyish-progeny, you may subscribe to my blog or check in regularly for some hellomuddahhellofadduh humor at http://ellengreiss.wordpress.com