Many seniors say ‘no, thanks’ to living with their adult kids

Posted on July 24, 2012

Article by acreamer@sacbee.com (Anita Creamer) on m.sacbee.com

In a spirit of gratitude and giving back to the parents who raised them, Bill and Jackie Merz’s daughters have extended a generous invitation.

“They both live in Chicago now,” said Bill Merz, 75, a retired Sacramento State psychology professor. “One was willing to put an extra floor on her house and install an elevator for us so we could live there. The other wanted to convert her basement for us.

“I told them we’d have somebody shoot us before we did that.”

The Merzes, who live in their own home at Eskaton Village Roseville, adore their extended, close-knit family, which also includes two sons in California and 11 grandchildren. But the idea of living with the kids in their older age leaves them cold.

“My first reaction was, ‘I don’t want you telling me what to do,'” said Jackie Merz, who is also 75 and a retired teacher and counselor.

Most older adults tend to be a bit more euphemistic about it: Typically, they say that they don’t want to be a burden to their kids, or that they don’t want to impose. But statistics show a plainer truth. In huge numbers, seniors relish their freedom, and they want to live on their own as long as they can.

In the Sacramento region, U.S. census figures show that almost three-fourths of people 65 and older live in same-generation (as opposed to multigenerational) households. National figures are even higher, with nearly 80 percent of older adults living in their own households – more than triple the number from the 1940s.

A recent survey from the research firm Gallup & Robinson highlights that sense of independence. While 53 percent of people below age 65 said they would take in an aging parent who needed their help, only a quarter of people older than 65 said they would accept an invitation to live with their grown children.

Those attitudes fly in the face of a stubborn cultural cliché, in which the grandparents, kids and grandkids grow older together under one roof – a holdover from the days when there was no choice but for the generations to live together, like it or not.

“I think the stereotype exists because we continually look retrospectively,” said Bill Merz. “It becomes a museum piece. Look at TV shows and movies about Christmas, the nuclear family they show.

“It hasn’t been that way since World War II. GIs didn’t come back from the war and move to Mom and Dad’s neighborhood. They moved to the suburbs or across the country.”

It’s been a long time since the grandparents lived one farm away, just across the prairie.

Along with postwar geographic mobility, the advent of Social Security seven decades ago provided a reliable retirement income, which for the first time allowed millions of older people to continue living in their own homes. And that financial stability has grown in the years since.

In the quarter-century ending in 2007, the number of low-income and poverty-level older Americans decreased to 36 percent from half of all seniors, according to Administration on Aging data.

Today’s economy, not sentiment or obligation, largely drives multigenerational households – but with a twist, aging experts say. With the recession hitting families hard, many grown children have moved in with their elders, or invited their parents to live with them – not because the older adults need help but because they themselves do.

“I unfortunately hear pretty often from our clients that their adult children have moved back in, and the parent who’s in their 80s doesn’t want them there,” said Rosanne Bernardy, executive director of the Ethel M. Hart Senior Center in midtown Sacramento.

“I never hear our clients say, ‘I really would like to live with my children, but they don’t want me to.’ ”

 

Relishing ‘me’ time

 

They’ve earned their freedom. For many seniors, retirement and older age are “me” time. After a lifetime of diligence and responsibility – raising children, working and taking care of their own elders – they cherish the time to themselves.

 

Take Carmichael resident Jeannie Obrien, 71, a retired real estate appraiser who’s divorced. She volunteers at the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, belongs to a photography group, gardens, reads and spends time with her friends.

And she loves living alone.

“We’ve passed our prime, but we’re out enjoying what we’ve never been able to do,” said Obrien. “I don’t have to check in with anybody. I’m out and about and doing my own thing.”

Even so, she has a standing invitation to live with her son in Sacramento. And in a decade or two or three, depending on her health and how vulnerable she feels living on her own, she might take him up on it.

“It’s a reciprocal thing,” she said. “I’ve helped him when he needs help, and he’ll help me.”

The key, aging experts say, is knowing when to make the move – and when the upside outweighs what many older adults think of as a considerable downside.

After living on their own, content in a comfortable routine, older people often find their grown children’s households chaotic, noisy and confining.

It’s not necessarily one big, happy family.

Grandparents can resent being thrust into the role of live-in baby sitter. Grandchildren can resent giving up their own freedom, and perhaps their rooms, to accommodate their elders.

“My daughter was in junior high when her grandfather lived with us,” said Dale Masters, a Northern California manager for national elder care referral agency A Place for Mom. “She couldn’t make noise in the house. She couldn’t have her friends over, because her grandfather was there.”

And older adults who move across the country, or even across the state, can face the uprooting of lifelong social networks. To live with their loved ones, they give up their neighbors and friends, their fellow church members, their doctors – the people who populate their daily lives.

The resulting sense of isolation can lead to a downward spiral into depression and illness.

“Missing that socialization with their peers is huge,” Masters said. “Folks tend to slide faster when they don’t have it.”

In her 2008 study on widows 65 and older who live alone, gerontologist Elaine Eshbaugh found that the biggest predictor of deep levels of loneliness in older women is the lack of close friends their own age, not a lack of caring family members.

“Their friends and peers are very important support systems for them,” said Eshbaugh, a University of Northern Iowa associate professor. “They prefer to rely on their friends, not their children.

“And if it comes to needing care, they prefer to go into assisted living or nursing care rather than moving in with their families.”

 

Downsides to family care

 

Despite that, many elders extract promises from their families that they won’t be sent into nursing facilities if they become frail – and many younger family members feel guilty if they don’t invite older relatives to live with them.

 

Relatives remain the caregivers of choice for older adults. As a 2010 AARP Public Policy Institute study found, more than 61 million younger family members provide ongoing care, often in their homes, to aging loved ones, with their unpaid efforts amounting to $450 billion in services.

“When families promise they won’t put their parents in a nursing home, they’re really promising to take the best possible care of them,” said Masters.

“But they can’t be three awake shifts. Some families do a fantastic job, but they’re not professional caregivers. It’s a lot of stress all the way around.”

They may miss medical crises – in particular, hydration and medication issues – until it’s too late. And as Eshbaugh pointed out, older adults are more likely to be abused or neglected by a family member than the staff of a care home.

In Roseville, Bill and Jackie Merz plan to move into Eskaton’s assisted living care one day if their health interferes with continuing to live on their own. They’ve planned for older age, and they have each other.

Ever since striking out from their native Chicago for California in 1970, they’ve prided themselves on the choices they’ve made for their family.

“We can’t imagine asking our age 50-plus children at the height of their careers to take care of Mom and Dad,” said Jackie Merz.

“We wouldn’t have our children saddled with us,” said her husband.

And their kids understand.

“I said, ‘You know you’ll always have a home here with us,’ ” said daughter Mary Merz, 50, an attorney in Chicago. “And their response was, ‘No, thank you.’ ”

Posted by:
Gabriela F. Brown, Constant Companions Home Care
http://www.constantcompanions.net
gbrown@constantcompanions.net
888.883.8393

 

Assessing Your Needs for Long-Term Care

Posted on July 24, 2012

 

Many seniors prefer the idea of staying in their homes as they age. However, care needs can change over time. Some of those needs can be met while remaining in the home. Evaluating circumstances periodically can help to assure an individual’s safety and comfort along the way.

To determine the appropriate level of care that you or a loved one may require, a full assessment of what current daily needs are as they are related to certain activities should be addressed. Asking a professional such as your doctor, nurse, geriatric care manager, or hospital discharge planner to assist you in filling out this assessment could provide a more complete view of your care requirements.

Fill out the form to indicate if you currently require help for the following activities and how often you need help.

 

Do you need help with this activity? No Yes If yes, is it sometimes or always?
How many times per day/per week?
       
Bowel/bladder control      
Eating      
Toileting      
Dressing      
Bathing      
Transferring      
Walking – indoors      
Walking – outdoors      
Go upstairs/downstairs      
Driving      
Cooking      
Housekeeping      
Yard Work      
Laundry      
Shopping      
Using the phone      
Managing finances      
Taking medications correctly      
       

 

Assessing Your Needs for Long-Term Care (cont.)

Are you currently receiving care or supervision each day? YES NO

Explain:

 

FOR WHAT: HOW OFTEN: WHO IS PROVIDING THE CARE:
     
     
     

 

List any assistive devices, i.e., cane, walker, grab bars, bed rails, modifications to communication or listening devices, oxygen, shower seat, medication reminder, Personal Emergency Response System, etc.
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________

 

What other restrictions do you have:
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________

 

Do you prefer having someone with you during the day? YES NO

Do you feel isolated or lonely? YES NO

Are you able to call someone for help if you would need it? YES NO

Are you comfortable with someone coming into your home? YES NO

 

Describe any other assistance needs or concerns you have that have not been asked already:
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________

 

Condition of Your Home – Is your home ready to take care of you?

If it is determined that the level of care you require allows for you to remain at home, the next step is establishing if your home is conducive to your care needs. Physical and Occupational therapists are good resources for evaluating your home environment in relation to your need for care.

 

Considerations for comfort in your home:

 

Are there steps in your home that would be a problem for you?

Outside the house: YES NO

Change to be made: ________ Approximate cost: ________

Leading into the house: YES NO

Change to be made: ________ Approximate cost: ________

From one floor to another: YES NO

Change to be made: ________ Approximate cost: ________

Between rooms: YES NO

Change to be made: ________ Approximate cost: ________

 

Are hallways and doorways wide enough for a wheelchair or walker to get through?
YES NO

Change to be made: ________ Approximate cost: ________

 

Are counters, drawers, cabinets, stove, oven, and refrigerator at appropriate levels?
YES NO

Change to be made: ________ Approximate cost: ________

 

Are kitchens and bathrooms big enough to navigate with any assistive devices?
YES NO

Change to be made: ________ Approximate cost: ________

 

Do you need assistive devices installed? Grab bars, stair glide, ramps, etc.?
YES NO

Change to be made: ________ Approximate cost: ________

 

Submitted by Gabriela F. Brown, CSA
Constant Companions Home Care, San Diego and S. Riverside
P:888.883.8393
T:@ConstCompanions
email: gbrown@constantcompanions.net
Web: www.constantcompanions.net

Information provided by
Society of Certified Senior Advisors
1325 South Colorado Blvd., Suite B-300, Denver, CO 80222 | Phone: 800-653-1785