Multi-Gen Living: When a Loved One with Dementia Moves In

Multi-Gen Living: How to Cope When a Loved One with Dementia Moves In

Life is tough enough raising children, building a career, and carving out a few minutes of self-care. Imagine adding to that already hectic mix a loved one such as a mother or a grandparent moving in? Now add to that the loved one has Alzheimer's, and you've got Meg Ounsworth Steere's life.

Caught between young kids and a mother with Alzheimer's

"My mom's Alzheimer's diagnosis and decline were a painful and lonely journey, one that coincided with an otherwise unbearably hectic time. My two children were still in diapers," said Ounsworth Steere in her article for Washington Post.

"The nights were ridiculously long, and the days were often tedious and mundane. Juggling work, kids, and my own health was challenge enough. My mom didn't want to be a burden, so she hid what would have been helpful facts and ferociously guarded her privacy and independence."

Steere, along with 47% of adults in their 40s and 50s, supports an aging parent in their seventies while raising their children.

Finding a support person(s), group, or meetup for multi-gen caregivers like you is one way the life transition can be made easier. Steere found her support person unexpectedly on the playground. Other support groups can be found at community centers, such as the Long Island Alzheimer’s and Dementia Center, which offers an array of caregiver programs for adult children, spouses, companions. Some support groups can be informal, and others can be structured educational workshops.

Don't be afraid to share your story of multi-gen living with dementia; you might find someone who shares your struggles and may offer a mutually supportive shoulder to lean on.

The "American Sandwich Generation"

First coined in 1981 by social workers Dorothy Miller and Elaine Brody, the 'Sandwich Generation' was used to describe a caregiver sandwiched between two generations—a parent caring for younger children and an aging parent at once. The moniker is more fitting than ever in 2022, along with a few variations.

The “American Sandwich Generation” can be categorized into three roles:

  • The Traditional Sandwich Generation — Adults typically in their 40s or early 50s sandwiched between their elderly parents and their typically adult children who both need financial or other assistance.
  • The Club Sandwich Generation — Older adults in their 50 or 60s who are wedged between aging parents, their adult children, and possibly grandchildren. This term can also refer to younger adults in their 30s or 40s who have younger children, elderly parents, and aging grandparents.
  • The Open-Faced Sandwich Generation — Anyone who's non-professionally involved in elder care, which is an estimated 25% of individuals at some point in their lives.

Safety Is #1

For instance, John Hopkins researchers found that over 90 percent of dementia patients' needs were safety related. A John Hopkins study in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that 88 patients and their caregivers reported that the more safety or navigation supports a person with dementia had, the higher they rated their quality of life.

  • Grab bars in the bathroom are an inexpensive fix and ideal for the bathroom—next to the toilet, on shower walls, and around the tub.
  • Tack carpet down or install thresholds to prevent falls.
  • Remove rugs in places your loved one walks through.
  • Lock gun cabinets and hide the key.
  • Remove knives from kitchen draws and, on the countertop, so your loved ones won't hurt themselves accidentally.
  •  Lock doors to prevent anyone from getting lost.

Treat your loved one like an adult, not your child

While your loved one with dementia may have child-like behaviors – mood swings, tantrums, irrationality, forgetfulness, and vocabulary problems, for example – it’s important to remind yourself that the things they say or do are surface level.

These surface-level similarities may encourage caregivers to unconsciously treat their loved one like a child. However, that type of care can exacerbate behavior problems and strip the diagnosed individual of their dignity and autonomy.

Additional Resources

The sandwich generation and related stats on this infographic by NWPC.com will blow your mind.

LIdementia.org: Talking with Children About Alzheimer's and Dementia

MayoClinic.org: Alzheimer's and dementia care: Tips for daily tasks

WashingtonPost.com: Caught between young kids and a parent with Alzheimer's, I found a lifeline on the playground

Contact the Long Island Alzheimer's Dementia Center  

If you have a loved one living with dementia or Alzheimer's, the team at the Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center offers an array of support services.

Contact us today to learn more about caring for your loved one by calling (516) 767-6856 or visiting our website at www.lidementia.org.

About the Author Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center

At the Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center, our mission is to improve the quality of life for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia, and their caregivers. We actively work to achieve this mission through research-based programming for all stages of Alzheimer’s, Caregiver Support Groups, in-home respite solutions, transportation options, and additional services.

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