Contributed by Jim Nelson, consultant to CAIRE Inc. ~
Used to be, they just called it life. People were born, grew up, married, and created their own family, usually within the confines of the same few acres. If Grandpa died, Grandma moved into the spare bedroom upstairs. If there was a death of one of the young parents, or the rare divorce, the remaining spouse and the kids wound up sharing the family home.
Whatever the case, a 100 years ago it was not at all unusual for a home to contain two or even three generations. It was a matter of support, of financial need, of love. It was just what people did.
Then, we moved away from that concept. A movement away from agricultural jobs, better wages, and a general loosening of family ties led to an increase in nursing homes, single parents and child care centers, and loneliness.
Nothing stays the same. The economy and other circumstances of life have made the idea of the multigenerational home reasonable again. Reasonable and in some cases, necessary.
Point is, you may just find yourself in such a situation sooner or later. If and when that happens, there are a few rules, certain attitudes, that will help to make the whole thing bearable.
Patience: Perhaps the most important of all attitudes in the multifamily house as well as in all parts of life, a degree of patience will allow you to get through your day without inflicting great bodily or psychological harm upon the grandchild with the drum set. If you represent the older generation, you may be able to set an example for your descendants, such as they are.
Communication: Vital for any relationship, and the key to understanding the situations, the wants and the needs of the other generations. You may not fully understand why anyone would buy a young child a drum but talking and listening will be a giant step forward.
Education: If you come to the new housing situation burdened with some manner of chronic disease, it will be very helpful if you are able to teach the other family members about the effects and the requirements of your existence. Necessarily, this will require you to learn about your own disease, which is never a bad idea. In turn, perhaps one of them can teach you something, although it is unlikely …
Generosity: Living together with one person requires sharing; sharing of time, sharing of resources, sharing of efforts. The more individuals that are involved in a living situation, the greater the sharing requirements. Lack of sharing can lead to resentment, recriminations, general hard feelings that make the other relationships harder to achieve.
These are just a few of the choices that should be considered in any household that consists of more than you. The more people who are involved in the household, the more diverse the wants and needs of each individual, the more complicated the situation will be. Please be the peacemaker, the voice of wisdom. If you can lead, if you can set an example, then you will be part of the solution.
~ Uncle Jim
Jim Nelson is a double lung transplant recipient and a patient advocate for COPD patients throughout the U.S. and around the world. He and his wife, Mary, are well known patient advocates and brand ambassadors for those organizations who tirelessly endeavor to help those individuals who suffer from a variety of respiratory diseases and the caregivers who support them.
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