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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Yaakov Kornreich’

Making the Multi-Generational Household Work

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

As Rabbi Meyer Waxman discusses elsewhere in this issue, more elderly parents are being forced, by circumstances, to move in with their adult children, as are more young adults who find themselves compelled to move back into their parents’ home. More adults have become part of the sandwich generation, as members of the six million American households today that span three or even four generations.

More than 70 years ago, this living arrangement was not uncommon, and was even considered to be something of an American ideal. Think of the multi-generational household that was depicted so nostalgically in the classic TV series, “The Waltons.” But after World War II, multi-generational living fell out of favor. In 1940, about a quarter of the US population lived in such households, but by 1980, just 12% did. Not coincidentally, this period saw the rapid growth of nuclear-families living in suburban homes, and the creation of huge retirement communities in the Sunbelt states. At the same time, the proportion of newly arrived immigrants, who commonly adopt multi-generational living arrangements during the initial stage of their life in a new country, declined as a share of the total US population.

A necessity instead of a choice

Today, most families adopt multi-generational living arrangements out of necessity rather than choice. When elderly parents can no longer live safely alone, loving family members may be unwilling to entrust their care to nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Young adult children find themselves with no choice but to move back into their parents’ home due to the breakup of a marriage or the loss of a job. Some young adults and their families move in with their parents voluntarily, because they prefer the conveniences that a properly structured multi-generation household can offer, but these are the exceptions rather than the rule.

Most multi-generational households are created on the fly in reaction to an unexpected crisis. In such cases, the head of the multi-generational household must face two fundamental questions. First, what changes must be made immediately to make the living arrangements for everyone as convenient as possible in the short term? Second, are they willing to make the permanent changes in their home and lifestyle that will be necessary to make the new living arrangements practical over a more extended period of time?

More simply put, it is one thing to put up your father-in-law on your living room couch for a few nights, or to ask one of your kids to double up with a sibling while grandma takes over their bedroom for a few weeks. But the natural friction from such extended, close interactions, under makeshift arrangements, will eventually start to wear on everyone.

No single formula for success

There is no set formula for making multi-generational households work, because no two situations are exactly alike. Sometimes the problems may be insurmountable. The head of the household and all of the family members involved need to go in with their eyes open and recognize that if the arrangement is to work, significant adjustments and compromises will be needed on all sides.

The first question to ask is often the most difficult – are the physical living arrangements available suitable to meet the minimum needs of everyone in the household? If not, what alternatives are available? How much time and money will it take to implement them? How will the household function before these solutions are in place?

For example, take the case of an elderly parent who can’t climb stairs, who had been living in an elevator apartment building in Florida, and who now needs to be brought back to New York to be taken care of by their adult child who lives in a walk-up apartment. To make such an arrangement feasible, the adult child may have to ask their parent to sell their Florida apartment in order to provide the down payment for a new home in New York that would be more suitable for the entire extended family. Alternatively, if the adult child owns their own home, they may have the option of refinancing their mortgage to pay for the construction of an extra bedroom or bathroom or other renovations (such as installing a wheelchair lift) needed to make the living arrangements more practical over the long term. Before making a final decision, the adult child should also consider whether the cost of the necessary alterations would ultimately be cheaper than placing their parent in a long term care facility.

Meet the Family Next Door

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

I was lucky to find a parking spot near the house. I was worried about being late, because I knew that Shmuel, the husband of the couple I was interviewing, had to leave within an hour to be on time for the mincha minyan at his local Breslav shul.

Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect. Shmuel and Sara Leah Saposnick were unlike any other couple I had ever interviewed during my long career as a journalist. But in the end, I decided to treat them as I would any other interview subject – put them at ease and encourage them to tell me what was important to them. I’ll let you, the reader, judge how successful I was.

From the outside, the multi-family house where the Saposnicks live looks very much like the others on their busy Boro Park cross street. When I knocked on their apartment door, and asked to come in, I learned that Shmuel had just come home from work. He had been delayed because the B-11 city bus he takes to and from his job each day was late. I was asked to wait a few minutes at the dining room table to give Shmuel a chance to freshen up. I secretly welcomed the chance to look around and get a feel for their home, while Sara Leah was busy in the kitchen putting away the food she had just bought for Shabbos at the local supermarket.

I noted that their apartment is well kept, bright, and tastefully, if modestly, decorated and furnished. A few minutes later, Shmuel and Sara Leah came in and the interview began.

Sarah Leah immediately made it obvious that she is the conversationalist of the family. She was eager to answer my questions about her family background, how she and Shmuel met and married, and what their life together has been like.

Occasionally, I would ask Shmuel a question, but he was content to let Sara Leah do most of the talking. He preferred to sit quietly most of the time, watching and listening intently to my questions and adding occasional comments and points of information to Sara Leah’s lively narrative.

Sara Leah told me that she grew up in an Orthodox home in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, was the youngest of 5 children, and that she had been living with her father on Long Island before she married Shmuel. Her family is not chassidish, but her father’s cousin knew Shmuel and his family, who are Bobover Chassidim, from the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx.

She particularly enjoyed telling me the story of their first date, and how Shmuel took her out to Kosher Delite, which is still their favorite restaurant. By the end of their fourth date, the couple was engaged. In fact, Sara Leah made a point of telling me that Shmuel asked her to marry him twice. When I asked Shmuel whether he had to ask twice because she turned him down the first time, he said no, that she had accepted the first time, but he decided to ask her again, just to make sure. Sara Leah also recalled how nervous Shmuel was when he brought her home late that night, worried about how he would tell her father that they were engaged, but everything worked out well in the end.

For her part, Sara Leah said she never had any doubts, and feels very lucky that she is married to Shmuel. “He is the only one who has been willing to take me the way I am,” she told me. In his own quiet way, Shmuel made it clear that he feels the same way about Sara Leah, whom he described as “a good wife,” who takes good care of their home.

It was not easy to put all the necessary arrangements in place, but within six months of their engagement, Shmuel and Sara Leah were married.  It was on October 31, 1995 that they began their life together with all the help they needed.

Yes. Shmuel now age 39, and Sara Leah, 42, have developmental disabilities. Since they got married, they have been receiving residential support and supervision from HASC Center, designed to help them to live a normal and satisfying life together.

According to Dr. Chaim Wakslak, the Clinical Director of HASC Center, the fact that marriage has worked so well for Shmuel and Sara Leah does not necessarily mean that it would be appropriate for many others with developmental disabilities. He pointed out that it succeeded for this couple because they are relatively high functioning, and are physically and psychologically capable of sustaining a healthy family relationship. Also, HASC Center carefully prepared Shmuel and Sara Leah for marriage, including its halachic aspects, and continues to supply everything all the things they need in their daily lives which they cannot provide for themselves.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/health/meet-the-family-next-door/2009/06/07/

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