The 5 Compelling Arguments FOR Multi-Generational Living
- Money - It's can be a tough conversation to have, but it is an absolute must. It doesn't matter whose home it is, it shouldn't be assumed that all the bills will be paid by the homeowner. Expenses will go up when bringing more people into the home. That would seem obvious. However, we were shocked that our electric bill doubled+. It made sense when we thought about it. Mom had the TV on 24/7 and at the hint of a chill, she ran a space heater, even though we had more economical options for heat. With the help of a good senior law attorney, we crafted a document that detailed how expenses would be shared.
- Living Arrangements - Take a hard look, imagine how and discuss in detail the home, different zones in the home, shared spaces and private areas. Don't assume that the grandkids will know it's not proper to barge into the grandparents area or vice versa. We discovered early on that my mother needed her own space. We did discuss it ahead of time and all thought the spare bedroom would work. However, literally the first week she was with us, there was a traffic jam at the bathroom. It was a problem because Kevin HAD to be in and out in the morning in order to make it to work. Invariably, that was the time Mom decided to be in the bathroom. We ended up building a bedroom onto the house with a bathroom designed for my mother's needs: higher toilet, walk-in shower, wider doors and brighter lighting. She now had her own private room that was large enough to bring more of her things from the family home.
- Conflict Resolution - In an ideal world, everyone gets along and there's never an issue. However, it's better to have a plan in place to deal with conflicts should they arise. We had family meetings that any one of us could call to order. I was surprised that the first issue that arose was with our 12 year old son. He was agreeable and enthusiastic to have his grandmother come to live with us. But, I think once it occurred, it became a little emotionally stressful for Jake. For the first time ever, he had to share our attention with another person in the house. We successfully worked it out and our multi-generational experience reaped numerous benefits for all of us.
- Blending 'Stuff" - My mother lived on the farm for 55 years...she had a lot of stuff and there was no way it was all going to fit into our house. She and I went through the house and gathered all the things that were special, meaningful and necessary for her to bring. We triaged furniture, heirlooms, clothing, pictures, kitchen items, etc. Family took some things, other stuff was donated and some was trashed. It's important to remember that you're bringing someone into your home, but it's also going to be their new home. We blended many of Mom's things into all areas of our home so that she felt like part of the family, comfortable and wanted. For instance, I made space for her favorite coffee mug, added pictures special to her on our shelves, stuck her hummingbird ironwork in the flower bed, put her strawberry chain pull on the ceiling fan and set up her ceramic Christmas tree along with all our other decorations.
- Special Considerations - When we added a room for Mom, it was built with wider doorways amenable for a wheelchair or walker, zero-threshold shower and higher toilet. The room was on the 2nd floor, so while she was physically very mobile, we did have a backup plan of putting in a chair lift in the stairway, if necessary. As her dementia progressed, we looked into adding a door lock that required a code to unlock the door. Other things to consider might include ramps, rugs, slippery tile, steps into rooms. etc.
- Kitchen Space - This was another thing we didn't anticipate. Our kitchen was available for Mom to use anytime, however, with her room on the 2nd floor, she didn't want to come downstairs for coffee. She wanted her coffee pot in her room. Fortunately, her bathroom was large enough to accommodate a cabinet for the coffee pot and supplies. There was space for a small refrigerator, but she opted against that. Some homes with in-law quarters come with dedicated kitchens, some do not. The importance of a dedicated kitchen should be part of the conversation.
- Technology - Different generations have differing technology needs. My son was most interested in speedy wi-fi and the latest cell phone. My mother wanted TV with the Game Show network. The next hurdle was the remote. She would push random buttons (I'm not sure why) and the TV would get messed up. I always knew it happened because she'd start calling for Jake - his 12 year old brain could figure that out but not how to put the cereal box back in the cupboard. Referencing the coffee pot, we had a pot she could use, but there were to many 'choices' on it. I ended up getting a $10 pot at Dollar Store with only one on/off button.
- Hire Help - It's amazing how much more work comes with an additional person in the house. There were more dishes, cleaning, laundry, errands for prescriptions and doctors, specific food needs which led to additional cooking and just general demands on my attention. Of course, in many multi-generational situations, the parties want to take care of their own needs and my Mom was able to do that for awhile. Still, there were the common areas that we all used and I just couldn't keep it up to my satisfaction. We ended up hiring a cleaning lady who took care of the common areas and my Mom's room.