How can we encourage more families to have their aging parent(s) move in with them vs. having to opt for a retirement home or caregiver? A difficult decision with unknown burdens coupled with unknown joys that can be immensely beneficial to all.
My father has always been stubbornly hell bent on maintaining his independence but after a series of strokes that set him significantly back physically and mentally he finally agreed to move in with us. This meant transitioning from my home town (and house we grew up in) of Ann Arbor to the much bigger city of Los Angeles.
Now of course I'm fortunate because not only had my father and I developed a very close relationship over the years after the death of my mother when we were kids but my husband also considers my father a close confident and unique fellow to know. This made the decision to ask him to move in with us MUCH easier for us than most.
What I've witnessed is profound and something I don't think would have occurred had he continued to live alone with a caretaker OR move into an assisted living situation. After spending a month at a stroke re-hab center he moved on to daily physical therapy sessions and now is heading to the local gym with us every morning!
The physical improvements are only half of the story. Mentally he's gone from a hazy lethargy and low memory recall to a complete re-birth of the father I knew and loved...the man that likes to tell stories...sharing and collaborating in our entrepreneurial endeavors out here in the west...meeting new friends and keeping up with old ones.
He's also formed such a special relationship with his grand-kids which is something I don't think he or we could have known how beneficial this would be. They say staying around the young keeps you younger and hopefully the video I attached alone tells that story. They keep him on his toes and to watch them both learn from each other is incredible.
Since even before the stroke he had been degrading, physically and mentally, after living alone for so many years, so I'm so thankful that something dire but not deadly finally happened that forced his practicality and smarts to kick in an realize that living within a family unit that can love and encourage him was the way to go.
6-months into this new way of living, where he is an integral part of our day and our family unit, I can now that one of the simplest secrets to aging well is to be engaged in the ups/downs and general activeness of families trying to live well and prosper. There is a natural flow to the structure that breeds healthier living for all involved.
After pondering our experience and the goals of this challenge I'm convinced that encouraging more families to find a way to let their parents into their homes is a significantly better road to recovery and staving off the pitfalls of aging YET I'm not naive that our relationship with my father undoubtedly made this decision easier for us then for others in different situations.
In addition, he was financially well enough off that he could even contribute to the overall household, which DOES make a difference by making the daily commitments (doctors, organization, groceries, cleaning etc) feel more like a valued job vs. a burden.
All said, I began to wonder whether a government program or subsidy might be the type of incentive that would help families overcome the fear of the unknown burdens of taking on the role of care-giver for their parents IN their own homes?
There was a time when multi-generational living was the norm....is there a NEW model that will make that pathway once again part of our value system? I think once we get through that first hurdle...the benefits will start to naturally outweigh the negatives...and the incentives will just be icing on the cake :)