Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Multigenerational living/farming...walkin' it out....

Scott Terry has a great post on his blog (Homesteader Life) about getting rid of nursing homes.
Since we are in the process of walking through this calling, I thought I would share.

Nursing homes have always been abhorrent to me. I never understood warehousing our old and infirm. I attribute a lot of this warehousing to the me generation, the instant gratification culture and our lack of respect for all forms of life...especially those inconvenient ones.

Many years ago, after my Grandma passed away, we asked Grandpa to come and live with us. He didn't want to leave his church, friends and the small town he had lived in for 50 years. We visited and kept in touch through phone and mail often. Three years after Grandma died, I got a call that Grandpa was in the hospital. Of course the hospital would not tell me anything over the phone. So...I packed up the kids (3 at the time), the school books (praising God for leading us to homeschool) and we left for Indiana. I got to the hospital and found out that he had bone cancer, very advanced and was given a few short months to live. The decision was made, by those in the family with decision-making powers, to put him in a nursing home. It made my blood boil. Grandpa and I were very close. I just informed the decision makers that I was staying, the kids were staying and we were bringing Grandpa home. His wishes were to spend his final days in the home he loved. I am thankful that we were able to give him that. He was a blessing to me and to my children. Many things can be said and learned in those final days together.

What amazed me was how much this upset the decision makers. What it boiled down to, in my humble opinion, was that the decision makers recognized the fact that this was their responsibility but it was a distasteful that they really didn't want to handle themselves.
They felt uncomfortable that I was stepping in and taking this responsibility...I think the truth was that they felt guilty. They were shirking their responsibility and they knew it. It was ok to pay someone to do this but not ok to have another family member take it on. I was told "this isn't your responsibility", but I felt that it was.

Well, then Dad came down with Alzheimers. A very difficult disease. He was kept at home for a very long time. I kept Dad certain days of the week. My Mom eventually placed him in an assisted-living facility when his actions became dangerous. I did not agree with this decision but had no power to change it. Thankfully Dad was unaware of his surroundings.

Now, here we are on the farm. My Mom lived with us for 2 years but she is very independent...and we have 4 boys. Mom had gotten used to quiet, complete order (a "never anything out of place" type of order) and she wanted her own place. She decided to put a small house here on the farm.

In the last 7 years, her health has declined and she needs more help. The boys help take care of the yard, empty the trash from her house, change her light bulbs, help her clean. We do all the repair and upkeep around her house for her, help her with her checkbook, take her shopping etc. We fix a lot of her meals or she eats with us. We check in on her several times a day. We call if we are away more than a few hours. She calls often...even when we are home. We ask for her help in small ways...mending...watching kids...slicing veggies for the dehydrator. It is important to her to know that she is contributing and she is important . We are very grateful for her help. She takes a great load off of my shoulders many times. My boys know that I need her, that she helps carry the load.

This is not an easy walk. Often times this is inconvnient...especially as her patience seems to decline as her age goes up! We don't always handle things well. Sometimes we really mess up and have to retrace our steps, retract our words and make things right.

We know that the time will come when she will need to be back in our home. We are preparing for that. We look forward to that. The lessons in this walk have been invaluable to our children. They see that you can respond to your elders with respect and love, even when they are difficult. They know that her life is valuable, that she can still contribute, that she is important in the operation of this farm...even if she isn't out pulling weeds and hoeing corn. They have learned to treat the elderly with dignity and this carries over to the elderly in our church and our community. They watch us walk through the difficult days and learn to persevere with gentleness and love. They see us apologize when we are at fault and even sometimes if we weren't at fault. We teach them that within the family, it is more important to desire peace than it is to desire to be right. These are important lessons. They know that Grandma will be here one day again.

I know when I am old and infirm that my boys will value my life. I will have a place in their homes and hearts. I know these things because they are walking this path with us now. They are learning the lessons and the fruit is showing in their young lives. We are not doing an extraordinary thing. I think we are walking the path that God designed for families. This is the way things used to be....before big cities, dual incomes and the entertainment lifestyle.

I can honestly say that having multiple generations living together has added something invaluable to all of our lives. Each one of us has learned great lessons and has been blessed through this....God truly knows best....we wouldn't change a thing!


  1. Very good post and I thank you for it. Around here it's multi generational on the farm, and it would be a terrible lonely existance if it were any other way. Oh, we have our good share of squabbles, but that's family.There is ine promise we have made here, and that's that no one has to look forward to a nursing home here. I'm already investing in my later days, this past year I bought an oak rocking chair and a banjo for them days when I can do a little sitting while the rest of the family is doing the farm work. What a retirement plan, huh :).

  2. Beautiful post, Farm Girl. My husband and I have plans for a small in-law cottage on our property, whenever we get to buy it, along with a properly equipped downstairs suite in the main house. Nothing big and fancy, but suitable and dignified.

    Many of my grandparents did spend their latter days in nursing homes (quite literally days). I didn't know all of the situation and I will not judge my parents' (and their sibilings) for doing what they thought was right at the time. I know that it was a very hard decision for them. However, that doesn't mean that I want to have that for my parents. Lord Willing, they will want to stay with us and will not feel that they are a burden. I feel it would be a blessing not only to them (actually to them secondarily), but mostly to my husband and I and especially our children. I think often of the time that we missed with our grandparents and how in their time of greatest need we weren't there for them. Yes, it would have been a tough move - they were either in TN or in MA and we were in NJ - but in my dreams it would have been difficult, but wonderful.

    Thanks for this post, it is something dear to our hearts. I am so blessed to have a husband that so willingly and wholeheartedly wants to provide for our parents in their later years.

  3. Very good post. My own mother says that she will go to a nursing home, she doesn't want to stay with anyone. She took care of her own mother for a time, and really didn't like having to do it, I think. I live away, and it would probably fall to my sister to care for her anyway. I can't imagine we could get her to leave her life long home to move out here.

    That said, I tell my children that they better never put me in a home. I worked in one as a teen, and I never want to be in one. I remind then that I have given up alot to give them a good childhood, and I expect a decent old age in return! :-)

  4. We started this adventure with my parents, purchasing our land together a couple of years ago, making the decisions on the house together, and doing a lot of the work on the house together. My husband and I always said we didn't want our parents in nursing homes if we could help it, but became aware that our previous home was quite small. We talked to my parents, and they liked the idea, so here we are, now, beginning to carve a niche for our children's future as well as enjoying my parents and their wisdom at a time when they are still very active and incredibly hard workers--great role models and teachers not only for the children, but also for my husband and me.

  5. What a great post!

    Amy ( told me about your post, and Scotts. This is how I responded to Scotts:

    "Amy sent me a link to this thread after I had sent her the following email:

    'I am deeply disturbed by the trend, even among Christians, to place our elderly in nursing homes, rather than care for them our homes.

    In most of my research, even Christian ministries focus their articles for family caregivers on "how to choose the best nursing home." I believe that is wrong...and I know that what I am going to say when I am through is going to step on a lot of toes....some of my very good friends will be offended.
    Just as homeschooling has called us into a radically different lifestyle, so does how we see our duty toward our parents and grandparents.

    I know...because I did it...and wish I had been better at it. But I can tell you that it is one thing to have children with you 24/7, it is quite another to have the care of the elderly...but I believe that is part of why
    God put us in families...and He is clear in Scripture about our
    responsibility to do so.

    Growing up around our parents and grandparents, as you expressed in your vision for your family, is the perfect way to ease into that transition of providing for the elderly.

    My husband and I have talked a lot about this in recent months. Two of our boys were married this summer, both of them to young ladies who live in the same rural community...despite the fact that one of our sons spent 4 years
    away in a service academy...he still came home to marry a "home-town gal"....and we could not be happier. We are praying that neither of our sons will venture far so that they will have the help and support of all of us as they grow in their marriages and have children. They, in turn, will provide for our needs and the needs of their wive's parents in the future.

    Besides the fact that we have become a transient society that moves away from family, another major reason that we have bought into the whole "nursing home" option is our entitlement mentality.

    Add to that our tendency to live self-absorbed selfish lives.....well...I am
    sure you get the picture!'

    Scott, I have been trying to position myself to address this very topic for months, and am thrilled to find others who are like-minded."

    I am so blessed to hear how you have brought your mother close to you and intend to have her closer still when she needs it.

    May the LORD pour out his blessings on you and your family in great measure!

    Blessings in Christ,

  6. Thanks for all the great input, it is always encouraging to hear from like-minded folks. I look at the Amish my knowledge they have never utlized nursing homes, instead they build Dawdi houses, small "apartments" attached to the main home.

    There are so many lives and so much wisdom wasting away in nursing homes. I think the elderly have been indoctrinated to believe that they will be a "burden" in their old Mom mentions this frequently, she doesn't want to be a burden. We need to retrain our older family members that they won't be a burden but a blessing. Mom has mentioned going to a nursing home so as not to be a burden....we just tell her we don't believe in them and that we will care for her here. Although she "protesteth too much" we can tell she is relieved. Her Mom insisted on going to a nursing home where all her friends were...but my Mom still feels guilty about it....we must keep on bearing truth to our families!


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