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Challenges for Multigenerational Households in the Modern Era

multigenerational households

The number of Americans living in multigenerational households is growing – a whopping 20 percent of Americans lived with multiple adult generations in one house in 2014.

What was once considered a byproduct of the Great Recession has shown itself to be a cultural trend with staying power. Nine years after the recession, many families still choose to live with some combination of young children, grown children, parents and grandparents under one roof.

Their reasons for doing so are numerous. Student loan debt, the cost of assisted living and nursing home facilities and a lack of affordable childcare options all create an economic incentive for families to live communally. Some choose this arrangement because they want elderly family members to age in place. Others want more opportunities for family time.

While multigenerational households offer many benefits, they present their own set of challenges, as well:

  • Financial Strain

To avoid conflict over who pays for what, it’s essential for households with multiple adult generations to talk frankly at the onset about shared financial responsibilities. While it’s difficult for some families to communicate openly about money, knowing who pays for groceries, bills and other expenses prevents resentment down the line.

Family caregivers lose an average of 33 percent of their income each year of care giving, according to life insurance and annuity company Genworth, and 62 percent of them use their savings or retirement funds to pay for care.

  • Adult Children

While the term “Sandwich Generation” refers to adults who take care of both young children and aging parents, it now frequently applies to aging adults who have both their parents and their grown children living with them. As student loan debt and low income cause financial strain for young adults, many choose to live with their parents for years after graduating college – close to 15 percent of Americans between 25 and 34 years old, in fact.

This type of multigenerational household is a big advantage for young adults who want to pay off loan debt quickly. The arrangement can also be beneficial for parents who need help looking after younger siblings or aging grandparents. However, it’s rare that these young adults have the time and skill sets required for caretaking responsibilities, which can put more strain on their overdrawn, “Sandwich Generation” parents.

  • Emotional Strain

For some families, family tension is reserved for Thanksgiving and the occasional reunion. For multigenerational households, family tension is a day-to-day challenge.

On top of the financial stress, caregiving for a family member takes an emotional toll. Fifty four percent experience guilt and resentment along with other negative feelings while caring for their family member and 43 percent said the experience negatively affected their personal health and well-being.

Family conflict takes many forms. Whatever the source, family tension leads to stress in multigenerational households, especially for caregivers. Caregiving is a notorious stressor because it subverts typical family dynamics. For example, helping your mother get dressed every day can be an emotional task when you’ve always seen her as someone who cares for others. Likewise, it’s difficult to hold grown children accountable for the money and time they contribute when they’ve always been in a dependent position.

The Benefits of In-Home Care

Many familial caregivers take on this responsibility for financial reasons. With the average annual cost of a private nursing home room at $90,520, a semiprivate at $81,030 and assisted living at $42,600, these options are out of many families’ price ranges.

However, the financial and emotional strain of familial caregiving is well documented. While this arrangement works perfectly for many families, for some, it is too difficult to juggle careers, personal lives and caregiving responsibilities. Familiar caregivers experience high rates of depression and isolation, so much so that the Family Caregiver Alliance calls caregiver depression a “silent health crisis.”

Home healthcare can alleviate strain on caregivers and tension in multigenerational households. By allowing elders to age in place while providing them the health, memory or companion care they need, families get the best of both worlds. As the Baby Boomer Generation hits retirement and more families opt for multigenerational living arrangements, the demand for home healthcare will continue to skyrocket.

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