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Three Generations - One Roof
Written By : Denis Ashauer 
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Today throughout America adult children are making decisions regarding the care for their parents. Research by Aging America Resources has shown that most adult children are OVERWHELMED, UNPREPARED, and UNINFORMED when they take on the role of the caregiver.

For the adult child it is easy to see the physical changes such as mobility, sensory changes, and cognitive challenges in their parents. Emotionally it is more difficult to understand their parent's loss of independence, social networks, and the reality that life on earth is coming to an end. Many times the decision to move a parent(s) in with an adult child is based on emotions alone and can lead to unforeseen problems unless ground rules and expectations are discussed BEFORE the move. These issues appear minor but cumulatively they can create enormous strain for everyone. Blending two or three generations into one household can have its challenges. Let's take a short glimpse at the diversity among these generations and the impact such a move can pose.  

For the aging parent life becomes very routine; meals are at the same time, favorite TV programs, taking afternoon naps, coffee with friends, etc. In general the environment is peaceful, calm and quiet. They have control of their environment including room temperature, TV loudness, brighter lighting, and sleep and wake times. The need to move in with the kids can be seen as an inability to care for themselves but it can also be an exciting adventure as long as there is privacy and the ability to maintain the control they have grown accustomed to. This generations will feel the need to "earn" their keep by helping out either financially or assigned chores. 

Adult children ordinarily are both working, raising adolescent children, and possibly grandchildren. In this household there seems to be a constant flow of motion in and out of the house, sporting events, school events, and social gatherings. In short, life is controlled chaos. The living arrangements seem to be working well with the parent(s) under the same roof. Then, unexpectedly, Mom or Dad becomes ill. The entire chemistry of the household changes. Now there are doctor appointments, lab tests, and therapists coming in and out of the house. Husband and wife have to decide who will miss work to make sure the parent's needs are met. Often the adult children unexpectedly need to become involved in their parents finances, health care, and care for daily needs resulting in compromises and role changes within the family. There may be a need to make home modifications to insure safety. This compounding stress often occurs rapidly and can become overwhelming.  

Adolescent children are the ultimate at multi-tasking. They can be watching TV, texting their friends, and holding a conversation all at the same time. This stimulation can lead to overload for someone whose life was very routine creating anxiety and stress. For adolescents it can be very difficult understanding the changes their grandparents are going through. They may not understand why their grandparents become "grumpy" when they talk too fast, too soft, or are asked to constantly repeat things. Unknowingly they can endanger their loving grandparents by leaving clothes on the floor creating tripping hazards, abruptly cutting in front of them, or having pets underfoot. Showing how to care for the aged can serve as a model for teenagers and future generations.  

Please do not misunderstand me; the desire to spend the final years with parents under the same roof is commendable. With proper planning, communication, and expectations this arrangement can be a win-win-win. A win for the aging parents for they will spend their final years with family, a win for the adult children knowing their parents are being cared for properly and not being left alone, and a win for family values.  

About the Author: Denis L Ashauer, Certified Senior Advisor and President of Home Helpers. Home Helpers is the leading provider for in-home non-medical care. Visit Home Helpers at

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