It can often be very difficult for family members of different generations to live under the same roof together.
Wanda Little of Castle Hill lives in a multi-generational household. She has been diagnosed with viral pneumonia, and she relies on the Visiting Nurse Service of New York for in-home health care.
However, VNSNY also provides her with in-home visits from a social worker to help deal with some of the issues that can come from three generations living in the same home. For Little, it is hard to say which service is more valuable.
“Everybody comes out and greets her,” Little, 55, said of her social worker, Evelyn Freytes. “If they have a question for her she gives the information to them or she gets right back.”
Little shares a home with her 29-year-old daughter, 21-year-old son, 19-year-old daughter, and two granddaughters, a 7- and one-year old. Freytes visits the family once a month.
VNSNY does not keep statistics on multi-generational families in the Bronx, but Freytes has seen anecdotal evidence of more parents living with their grown children and grandchildren.
As a social worker, Freytes’ role is to visit families in their homes and serve as a sort of mediator to make sure they are communicating effectively. She meets with them both in group settings and individually.
She worked with another multi-generational family in Castle Hill in which a man was constantly joking around with his live-in mother-in-law. From the son-in-law’s point of view, it was just harmless joking, but his mother-in-law was actually taking the jousting personally.
Even though she never said anything, it was hurting their communication and she didn’t speak up until they both sat down with Freytes.
“That was the first time they had actually sat down to discuss something,” Freytes said. “They formed a boundary about how much joking is too much joking. It’s things you would think are simple.”
For multi-generational families, the social work and communication work provided by VNSNY can be just as important as health care.
Forty-nine million Americans, or 16.1 percent of the country’s population, live in multi-generational homes in 2008, according to a study by the Pew Research Institute.
For those families in the Bronx, VNSNY can make life a little easier.