Having your aging parents come to live with you full-time can be a significant life transition. Not only do you need to stay on top of your usual family responsibilities, but you also need to deal with the challenges that come with living in a multigenerational household.
If you're retired, that might add another wrinkle. Baby boomers are uniquely positioned to deal with retirement and family responsibilities such as eldercare — and Gen Xers will be soon. But just because it might be difficult doesn't mean it can't be done — and done in a way that benefits the whole family.
7 Strategies for a Successful Multigenerational Household
So how can you make sure that your multigenerational household runs smoothly? Adapting to your family's changing care needs can be stressful, but these seven tips can help smooth the waters for a successful outcome.
1. Talk Openly About Expectations
Open, honest communication is the foundation of any successful relationship. Have frank conversations with your aging parents and anyone else in your household. Each generation has its concerns and needs; getting them out into the open in a calm, respectful way can mean the difference between success and strife. Ask everyone living under your roof what they think is and isn't working — and how they might improve things.
2. Set Boundaries
Having a set of healthy boundaries and ground rules keeps everyone feeling good about their living situation. Boundaries are built on clear, open communication — talk about how boundaries will be set and what happens if they're crossed.
3. Ask for Help
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, one in five Americans provides unpaid care for a family member — and 23% of them say that caregiving has made their health worse.
You might not be an active caregiver to your aging parents, but you might have to do some caregiving — and you shouldn't do it alone. Ask for help from the other people in your household. And ask for outside help if you need it, whether it's getting professional caregiving assistance or outsourcing things like housecleaning or yardwork.
4. Practice Self Care
Self care isn't selfish. Exercise, taking a break from the family and finding a support network are all legitimate ways to recharge and protect your well-being. Make sure that you're getting what you need and that you're properly supported, which will help prevent burnout.
5. Make Accommodations to Your Home
Whether you're in a condo, an apartment or a single-family home, you have a finite amount of space — more people means more crowding. Are you maximizing the space you have and using it efficiently? Do you need an extra bedroom? Is your home safe for someone who might not be able to get around like they used to?
6. Position Your Finances
Many baby boomers are planning for their own retirements and meeting the needs of their children and their aging parents all at once. Take a close look at your financial situation and make any necessary adjustments to ensure that you won't be stretched too thin. Put some funds aside to make renovations to your home to accommodate your multigenerational household, or set a budget if you're paying for college and some of your aging parents' needs.
7. Acknowledge Generational Differences
Embracing the different ages and stages of a multigenerational household is key, but doing so requires acceptance and understanding. Younger kids might see things differently than teenagers or adults. The intermingling of various generations can be beneficial and fulfilling, but there can be misunderstandings, too. Always be mindful of everyone's specific needs.
Living with your aging parents is by no means easy, but with these tips, you can help everything go as smoothly as possible. Just remember that sometimes the best thing you can do is sit back, take a deep breath and enjoy the company of your loved ones.