Share the Care: 7 Tips for Multigenerational Living

Are you caught between the needs of an aging parent and those of your children? You're not alone. Nearly half of American adults in their 40s and 50s face similar challenges. Here are some tips for navigating a difficult situation.

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- Posted on Feb 26, 2016

Guideposts: Grandparents, parents and kids all gather to smile for the camera.

Are you part of the sandwich generation, like Laura Yeager? A 2013 Pew Research Center survey found that nearly half of Americans in their forties and fifties have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a child under 18 or supporting a grown child.

They face particular challenges in caregiving and providing financial and emotional support. They often feel caught between the needs of their aging parents and the needs of their children.

How do you bring your multigenerational family closer? Home Instead Senior Care worked with Matthew Kaplan, Ph.D., of Penn State, an expert on intergenerational programs, to develop these tips:

Treat this as a family partnership. Everyone needs to be informed and to give input into the arrangements. No one person should be responsible for everything.

Set expectations right away, so people understand how they fit into the family. Make sure adult siblings know you expect them to be involved in your parents’ care.

Allow others to share the burden. Give your kids responsibilities around the house. Even young children can bring a blanket or a glass of water to the person needing care, and doing something helpful gives them a sense of inclusion. The same goes for the seniors in your family. Let them use their talents and knowledge to help out where they can. As Laura Yeager’s mom pointed out, most folks need to feel needed. If you’re considering professional respite care, contact Home Instead Senior Care at (866) 996-1085 or homeinstead.com/guideposts for a free consultation.

Prioritize family unity. Routines, rituals and traditions draw everyone closer. Plan a family movie or game night. Take a walk together. Have Sunday family dinners.

Build on common interests to develop deeper relationships. What’s your family into? Find activities that provide simple ways to generate a common bond, such as cooking, Bible study or watching sports.

Keep lines of communication open. Recognize the importance of “my time” and “our time.” Try to take everyone’s needs into account.

Distinguish between private space and shared space. Shared space should have materials that are inviting for all ages (family photo albums, for example). Set aside private space for each member of the household.

For more tips on multigenerational living, search the term intergenerational at caregiverstress.com.

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Tags: Family
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