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May 15, 2013

Intergenerational homes on the rise as senior living option

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

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The intergenerational home was furnished in a manner similar to Carl and Delphine Becker’s family home to give the aging parents a sense of comfort and familiarity in a new location. The décor of the first floor showcases hunting prizes Carl Becker and his daughter Lori collected on their bonding journeys all over the globe.

These days, it’s quite common to have grandparents and other extended family members living under one roof.

According to the latest census data, as of 2010, 4.3 million U.S. homes held three generations or more under one roof, a 15 percent increase from just two years earlier.

Living in an intergenerational home is one housing option that many local seniors are choosing.

Two-and-a-half years ago, Carl and Delphine Becker, their daughter Lori Becker, and her husband decided to sell their quad-style homes in Clinton Township and Bloomfield Hills to hunt for a home they all could occupy together.

“My parents contacted me and said, ‘You know, I just don’t know how much longer we can do the upkeep on our house, so we have to make some decisions,’” Lori Becker said. “I basically dropped everything and took them to independent living places, and my dad was fine — he could have lived in a cardboard box for all he cared — but my mom … never saw herself as a little old lady, so it was never going to work for her.”

After much searching, the families discovered a two-story home that sits on eight acres on the Paint Creek Trail in Rochester.

“We took the needs of each person and combined them to come up with our house,” Lori Becker said. “It’s perfect because the people before us renovated everything, and we literally just had to bring our stuff. … It was such a magical find. We were just so blessed that this fell into our hands.”

The home provides Lori Becker’s parents their own privacy in a finished basement, complete with its own kitchen and bathroom, while she and her husband find retreat in the upstairs portion of the home. Because caring for elderly parents often means less ability to travel, she said the family built a custom pool that suits both the elder generation, with a ramp that fits over stairs to accommodate for a wheelchair, and the younger generation, with a swim-up bar.

Lori Becker, now in her 40s, admits the lifestyle change was a challenge, at first.

“It’s a huge life change,” she said. “(Right when we moved in), we were taking care of them. We go grocery shopping and buy all the things that are important for them — it doubles up on everything. Making sure that her fridge is stocked and preparing all of her meals. … This was done to avoid a nursing home, ever. It was my promise to both of my parents that they would never be in a nursing home. They wanted to be in a house that they loved and with family, so now our lives are focused on that.”

Just two months after the move, Carl Becker passed away, but Lori and her husband continue to care for Delphine, now 83.

“It’s been a wonderful alternative for my parents. It’s not the easiest thing in the world. It’s definitely a 200 percent commitment on the family who is there, but I know my mom is safe, that she’s well cared for, and I know she’s happy. … I do think this is the way more people are wanting to go,” Lori Becker said.

Jean Jacques, Area Agency on Aging 1-B clinical manager for the Nursing Facility Transition Program, also believes multigenerational homes are on the rise.

“We do see a lot of people bringing their loved ones back home. Especially people that had no idea that there were options out there. … Seniors have stories to tell and so much rich history to share with the younger generation — it’s something that’s irreplaceable,” she said.

Area Agency on Aging 1-B’s Nursing Facility Transition Program helps nursing home residents return home. She said the program targets Medicaid-eligible nursing home residents who may no longer need the intense level of around-the-clock care that a nursing home provides, but are still living in a nursing home because they face a barrier of one type or another that is keeping them from being discharged. Counselors from the Nursing Facility Transition Program work one-on-one with participants to address barriers and help them find a living situation that is safe and will work for them. 

“There’s a lot of family guilt when you have to place someone into a nursing facility because family members don’t want to do that, but they feel that their back is up against the wall and there is nothing else they can do and don’t realize there are programs like ours out there to help provide those services in their household so there is no caregiver burnout or so that the children can still be able to work,” she said.

Jacques explained that there are lots of options — participants can move back to their own homes, move in with family members or move into an apartment, assisted living facility or adult foster care facility. In addition to finding the right housing situation, the program also helps people put together the care and support services they will need to live successfully once they are home.

The Nursing Facility Transition Program is part of Michigan’s Medicaid Program. Medicaid dollars are used to pay for the transition and in-home care.

For more about the Area Agency on Aging 1-B’s Nursing Facility Transition Program, call (800) 852-7795 or visit www.bringthembackhome.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at malmond@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1060.