Multigenerational housing can mean so many things, can't it? When my kids were young, my parents moved in with my mom's parents to care for them during my grandfather's final illness and the two years after that my sweet grandmother lived. For the first year, they made do with the small guest room. After grandpa passed away, they were able to take a larger room which, I'm sure, was a real blessing for them.
A few years later, my dad's parents moved out of the assisted care facility they no longer qualified for and moved in with my parents for their final few months.
In both cases, my parents were able to give them the loving personal care they needed in comfortable surroundings and my kids and I were able to enjoy wonderful visits, getting to know them much better than we ever had before – especially with my dad's parents who had previously lived a state away.
When an elderly relative reached a point of needing help from me during my kids' teen years, she lived several hours from us and didn't want to move. My husband and I took turns traveling down to help her get her affairs back in order along with her home, praying all the while for wisdom to know what to do to help her in the longer term. God opened a window by reminding us of a nearby niece who lived alone and needed some extra help as well. Separately, they were both struggling. Together, it may have sometimes come across as "the odd couple" but in reality it worked really well. They were company for each other. They each had strong points to help with the opposite's weak points. And in more than one case they were each truly a life saver to the other! Definitely a win-win-win situation that helped them and helped us.
We were in the midst of home shopping for a single story house when my husband went home to be with the Lord. I continued our quest and found a nice four bedroom with a really big master bedroom set in the far corner of the house. I enjoyed it for a couple of years – then gave it to my senior parents when my dad's Parkinsons Disease started spiraling downhill. It worked really well for all of us. I was rarely in my bedroom so I didn't care where I slept as long as I had a bed. The third room was the grandkids' room and the fourth was my college student's room til she moved out. Then it was the guest room…for awhile.
Their area was complete with a huge bathroom, bedroom, and tiny refrigerator we added. They could come into the main part of the house whenever they wanted, and we have such joy-filled memories of them playing with the grandkids who were frequently there, as my one daughter came over daily, while her husband went to work, as she was on bedrest for several months with a high-risk pregnancy. You should have seen my senior dad on the good days, rolling around the living room in his wheel chair with his youngest grandson grinning widely while sitting on his lap.
On the not-so-good days, they could retreat to the peace and quiet of their mini-apartment and hide from any noises, since their room had a solid buffer of two bathrooms between it and the family room and living room. It was an excellent arrangement.
Eight months later, he had gone to be with the Lord, my senior mom was still in the master bedroom, and my daughter with the high-risk pregnancy moved in with her whole family so my mom and I could help them with their twins who had been born early with some special needs to deal with. This time, our multigenerational home morphed just a bit and we delegated the living room primarily to them, while mom and I mostly hung in the family room although there was definitely a lot of give and take between both.
And these are just some of the creative ways families in the Sandwich Generation can "think outside the box" to come up with congenial living plans when they have embarked on a journey of caregiving combined with raising children or helping with grandchildren. Some other options include:
A two-story house with a master suite downstairs for the seniors and the kids/grandkids upstairs. The kitchen and family room become the place for all to congregate while the bedrooms are far enough apart to give everyone some peaceful space "of their own."
A two house property with an adjoining yard. We did this for a few months. My senior mom and I lived in the smaller house. My kids and grandkids lived in the bigger house. We each had our own privacy, but were also available when babysitting was needed, doctor appointments were scheduled, etc.
A duplex with an inside door to allow everyone access to both halves. However the division is made, having at least two kitchens and two bathrooms can be a REAL treat for all!
Local caregiving facilities nearby such as assisted care for those seniors who are fairly independent and nursing homes for those who need more care than we are able to provide – either because of severity of illness or our working schedules. Having them close, though, makes it much easier to ensure plenty of visits to encourage our beloved parents as well as to stay on top of how they are being cared for in the facility. No matter how good a care facility is, having family visit regularly can definitely be an excellent way to "hold them accountable." And for those who only need occasional care, the part time respite care options that are growing more prevalent can be an excellent help as well.
These are some of the ways we in the Sandwich Generation, caring for aging parents while raising children or babysitting grandchildren, can flex our living arrangements to make things a bit easier for all the family. How about you? Do you have other suggestions? We'd definitely like to hear them!