Our Listeners Tell Of Joys And Trials Of Living In Multigenerational Households
Morning Edition is in the midst of a special series called "Family Matters: The Money Squeeze." It profiles three families struggling with the complexities of living in multigenerational households and facing difficult financial decisions: how to afford care for an elderly relative while paying for college and saving for retirement.
This look at financial literacy amid the challenges facing families has prompted a wave of response from our radio and online audience. On e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, many of you have shared your personal experiences about the emotional and financial stress of acting as caregiver to your parents, grandparents, siblings and children.
Yoshiko Okuyama of Keaau City, Hawaii, sent in a photo (above) of her 20-year-old son and her 82-year-old mother. After Yoshiko's father passed away in 2000, her mom came to live with her and her family. "Being an only child, I decided to care for her where I live. I also made that decision hoping that being close to an elderly person, especially his own grandmother, would present a positive impact on our son's development ," she says.
Michelle Peltier, 40, sent us a photograph of her son and her 64-year-old mother, who has M.S. and dementia. She wrote:
"At that point my mom had been living with us for about half a year, since moving from her home in Richmond. We'd tried to allow her to live in her own apartment for as long as possible, but after a fire started in her kitchen, it just wasn't safe anymore. She was unhappy about leaving her home and she had a lot of difficulty adjusting to the layout of our home, often struggling to find the route to her room or to the bathroom. Once we had to put up gates to limit the baby's wanderings, things got that much more confusing for her and it always seemed like she was always on the opposite side of the gates that she wanted to be.
"In January, I went back to work fulltime and it was necessary to move her into a nearby assisted living facility. There are never enough hours in the day for me to feel like I'm present enough for her, the baby and my husband. I know many, many families are dealing with the needs of the generations on either side of them, but I wonder if there's ever any way to do it without compromising on everybody's needs."
Cindy Scott Day has a daughter with a disability. She writes:
"I thought my job would be over by now, as she just turned 18 and graduates high school in a year. But that's probably not going to happen. My 401(k) has been pilfered badly, and we live very, very modestly, and I worry about the future."
Renee Squyres-Houston of San Antonio, Texas writes:
"My husband and I moved in with his grandparents to take care of them. Otherwise, they would have had to sell the home they had worked so hard for to pay for assisted living. His grandfather passed away a few months later, but I took care of his grandma for five years. She passed away two years ago, but we are still recovering financially and emotionally from the toll it took."
Many of you have also written about the rewards of caregiving.
Terri Moyle writes:
"This [series] made me cry as I remember the years of caring for my mum, how hard it was and how cross I would sometimes get with her when I was tired. But most of all, I cry for how much I miss and love her now she has gone."
Marsi M. writes:
"Financially it was difficult, but we were blessed with family and friends who assisted us. I am grateful I was able to care for my mom, to spend time with her and to honor her wishes that she stay in her own home."
Carla Seif writes:
"I took care of my sister for the last 1 1/2 [years] of her life, then 8 months later took care of my mom for the last month of her life. Since 2008, I have been [the] main caretaker for my father and will be 'til the end. [I] also help out a neighbor who had a quadruple bypass that went haywire... [It's] hard but I wouldn't change it."
In coming weeks, Morning Edition will continue to report on the three families living in multigenerational households. Senior Business News Editor Marilyn Geewax will also try to answer some of your financial questions relating to elder care and caregiving.
In the meantime, we want to keep hearing from you. Do you live in a multigenerational household? Share your candid photos and stories with us on Tumblr or #nprfamilymatters on Twitter and Instagram.
(Jess Gitner is a production assistant for Morning Edition.)