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Incentives for Multi-Generational Living

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.

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11 10

Written by DeletedUser

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 :) 

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Photo of Ashley Jablow

Lynn, thanks so much for sharing this wonderful story from your family. Not only is it inspiring to hear about the benefits of multi-generational living for your father's health, but it's eye-opening to learn more about your role as a caregiver. We can't look at aging in a vacuum – it's something that affects whole families – and your story highlights that fact very well. Looking forward to collaborating with you on this challenge!

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Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Indeed a wonderful story. It made me wonder if I could do this... as you pointed Lynn, this was made possible because of the special relationship both you and your husband had with your father.
However, it does seem like a great option and I think an option to consider. Talking with 2 psychologists who work in nursing homes, they told me that in fact it would be less expensive to financially support people to stay at home... It might be worth looking into the numbers and showing how staying at home or moving with your family might be a solution that could be financially supported by Medicaid (in the US).

I agree with Ashley that it does remind us that aging cannot be looked in a vacuum and that it does affect families. A good friend of mine a few weeks ago decided with her sister and brother to put their mother (who has dementia) in a nursing home as her sister who lives nearby her mother could not manage it anymore. Moreover, care givers at home were not enough anymore. I know it was hard and part of the difficulty came from the sense of guilt... so clearly thinking of the implications for families matter.

Thanks again for sharing!

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DeletedUser

Thanks for the psychologists validation of my agreed belief that staying at home would be much less expensive...I'll definitely start digging into that. I was very surprised when my father moved in that medicare would ONLY pay for short-term care-giver support and if you (the family, in my case daughter) wanted to provide that instead, by taking off of work for a period, they would ONLY allow that IF the licensed care-giver both trained you AND was there with you when the support was being provided.

This article summarizes the available options pretty well (http://www.caelhealthcare.org/what-senior-care-options-does-medicare-cover/). I would be over the moon if this challenge collaboration resulted in medicare or medicaid not only supporting but encouraging the 'family as care-giver' payment option.

Even as much as you love your parent and might consider doing this for love reasons alone, the fact that you have to reduce your hours at work or stop working all-together means that some form of payment is required, and for non-working children of elderly parents (such as stay at home moms) it could provide a sense of value for a needed service being provided, while letting them have a bit of independence about how money is spent in life (ie invest in that new bathroom, or take that trip you'd always wanted to).

Your point about aging parents with ailments that go well beyond what their children could provide support for is VERY important. When my dad was at his worst, I tried to do everything, and it was really tearing the family apart, I was exhausted and some of the activities are SO beyond my level of expertise physically (and mentally) that ultimately I pulled the trigger on having someone come in for a few hours a day that knew what they were doing and I had my dad pay for that.

Now we know our limits, when we need to call in for extra ammunition. If my father moved into a dementia situation (which I experienced my grandmother go through when I was younger) I can very quickly see how at home care becomes not an option, simply in order to keep the parent safe (I remember as a kid my grandmother started wandering the streets and no one knew where she was).

I suppose the whole thing is to start talking to your parents early about the options, being honest about when things are beyond your capabilities and agreeing at what stages you'd call someone IN the house to help out...all the way to the serious dementia stages where you'd need to have them in a home or assisted living situation with 24-hour support.

The bigger challenge is the financial part and how to change the way medicare/medicaid not only supports but encourages the 'family as care-giver' option.

Love this collaboration :)

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Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Hi Lynn,
thanks for your reply. Sorry for taking so long to reply but I was trying to get extra information regarding the medicare point from the two persons I interviewed, but did not get a reply.

I agree with you on the importance to look into the economics of caring for elders in order to show that maybe some options that seem to be better for the elders (and even their family) and preferred by them (in one of the inspirations, there was a statistic about 75% or 80% of the Americans would want to stay at home, but only few can). Maybe there should be an elderly "grant' and people could decide how to use it to get the right care: whether in a home, at home or with their kids, and it could cover medical assistance, housing, food but also compensating children who take time off (rather than paying a home or a caregiver).

Indeed, starting talking with your parents is important but not easy. ... especially if they don't initiate and seem healthy... there might be some ideation to be done on that topic too.

I agree on the conversation! :-)

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Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

oh and regarding the second point on having conversations with your parents, that idea might be offer opportunities: http://www.openideo.com/open/mayo-clinic/ideas/intergenerational-health-holiday

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DeletedUser

Yes - an elderly 'grant' is spot on - now the trick - how difficult is it to push this up the legislation channels - I struggle with whether to go the government route vs. something more public or commercial. Stay tuned for my 'idea' submission shortly!

Re: having conversations early, I just experienced something tonight where my father seems to be having a bit of a relapse and I was SO at peace to be able to remind him of the conversation we'd had early on about "when to have additional care/support step in to help us" so that he can get him more around the clock care, while not putting the entire family (ie my husband and 2 young kids) in a completely stressed situation.

We're looking into additional morning support starting Monday and because we'd talked about I didn't feel guilty about moving on this plan asap, as if I wasn't doing enough by seeking additional help.

Here here for Naton's holiday concept - I like this line of thinking - and hope to see MORE new ideas in this category - I'm already thinking of a few myself!

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Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Looking forward to reading and commenting on your upcoming ideas!

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Congrats on this post being today's onsite Featured Inspiration!

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DeletedUser

That's awesome!!!

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Photo of Meena Kadri

Wow – great stuff Lynn. Loved the video, your thoughtful reflections and provocations which are bound to set off some thoughts from others for our upcoming Ideas phase. Bring it on !

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DeletedUser

Thanks so much Meena! :)