Rosalie Wilkins, 83, of Portage, knows all of her duties and weekly family routines and responsibilities as well as she knows her own address.

Usually, it's helping with laundry, assisting with meals and offering a hand with doing dishes. But this week, she'll also be busy making the pies for her family's Thanksgiving dinner celebrated at her daughter's home, which is also now her home.

"It was 10 years ago when my husband, Mike, talked to me about making a family change so we could be closer to help my parents, who lived in New Chicago, not too far from our own home in Portage," said Rosalie's daughter Pat Kraynak.

"We had a family meeting, talked with my parents and decided we would each sell our respective homes and buy one common larger home that we could all share to live under the same roof."

Rosalie and her husband of 63 years, Bob, agreed it was a good idea.

The couple's other three children, Pat's siblings, Joanne Lankford and David Wilkins, both of Hobart, and Diane Reighard, of Missouri, also agreed it was a good plan.

"Keeping up our home was becoming more and more difficult and there are health worries that also come with age," Rosalie said.

"There is much less to worry about now and we all here to help each other."

Carrie Mason, of Valparaiso, from the department of medical social services for the Visiting Nurse Association of Porter County, said Rosalie's family is part of a rapidly growing trend.

"I've been a social worker since 2000, including my past 10 years here with the VNA, and we see more and more combined families returning to the traditional family model from years ago that has older relatives moving in with their sons, daughters, grandchildren and even nieces and nephews, as a way to help each other," Mason said.

"And when thought out and planned, it not only works well, providing better financial advantage to families and security for all, but also it just makes sense."

She said today's increasing costs for assisted living and nursing care centers are making it more unaffordable for families to consider placement in skilled unit facilities.

"It's not only just personal finances, now that so many people are living longer, insurance companies and Medicare are setting up tougher guidelines to even allow for many to get long-term care in care facilities," Mason said.

For Rosalie and her family, adopting a family formula that is much closer to the portrayal on television shows of the past, like "The Waltons," is a perfect fit.

Daughter Pat said since her own children, Rosalie's grandchildren, were ready to move out, it made the new blended family equation even easier.

The new home the family purchased in Portage has a large dining room, expansive kitchen and three bedrooms, in a tri-level design, which affords added privacy for all.

When Grandpa Bob died last May, it left family void. However, Pat said at least her mom was already part of their family household to help make the transition easier with shared support.

"My dad worked for years at the Ford Stamping Plant, and he loved to work," said Rosalie's daughter Joanne.

"Knowing that Mom was living with family at the time of his passing made it better for everyone."

When Rosalie isn't baking or cooking, she also helps with babysitting. She has 10 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren, plus two great-, great-grandchildren.

"We say this so often, and we mean it, we are so glad we did this arrangement," Pat said.

"Of course, it helps that we all get along."

Rosalie, who is in fine health now following a frightening bout with pancreatic cancer earlier this year, said a family with shared faith also helps.

It was Rosalie's grandmother, Sabina Bryant, who founded Hobart Nazarene Church in the late 1920s, where the their family still worships today.

As for concerns about various schedules, preferred eating times and television viewing habits, Rosalie and Pat agree these are minor considerations and were easily worked out from the start of their shared living agreement.

"It's all about family coming first," said Pat, who enjoys watching "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" with her mom.

"If you have the blessings of your family around, everything else in life is very minor."

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