Family Matters: Meet The Families

Even as the recovery gains steam, record numbers of people are living under a roof where adult children, middle-aged parents and elderly grandparents must learn to live together. In a series called "Family Matters," NPR's Morning Edition explores the lives of three multigenerational households struggling with issues of money, duty and love.


The Shamone-Gilmore Family

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    Natasha Shamone-Gilmore walks to church with her husband, Curtis (left), and her father, Franklin Brunson, 81, in Capitol Heights, Md.
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    Natasha moved her father into her home after the painful realization that he could no longer live independently.
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    Franklin talks often about missing his independence, especially the ability to drive.
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In 2009, Natasha Shamone-Gilmore received a call from a stranger saying that her father, Franklin Brunson, was in trouble. The 58-year-old drove from her home in Maryland to South Carolina, and found that her dad's second wife had died, his life and finances were in disarray, and he was suffering from dementia. She brought him back to Maryland, where the 81-year-old now lives with her and her husband, Curtis, 63, a regional bus driver, in a cramped two-bedroom home. Natasha's son Nicholas, 24, also lives with them. He works part time at a restaurant but is struggling to figure out his next career move. While working full time as a computer trainer at a nonprofit, Natasha has spent much of the past two years straightening out her dad's financial and medical affairs, and finding care for him. After unhappy attempts at in-home care, Natasha now drops her father off at an adult day care center, on her way to work.


The Hunter-Christian Family

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    Ida Christian, 89, gets help from her granddaughter, Yolanda Hunter (left), in blowing out the candles on her birthday cake.
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    Yolanda (right) and her mother, Geneva, decided to take a hands-on approach to Ida's care after she was diagnosed with dementia.
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    Geneva reads a card for her mother during Ida's 89th birthday party.
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Geneva Hunter, 66, runs the secretarial operations at a major Washington, D.C., law firm. Two-and-a-half years ago, she noticed that her 89-year-old mother, Ida Christian, was developing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Geneva brought her mother to Maryland to live with her, so that she could provide better care. Geneva tried home nursing aides, but wasn't happy with any of them; so her daughter, Yolanda, 43, quit her well-paying job to become her grandmother's full-time caregiver. Geneva cares for her mother at night. Neither woman realized how hard this would be. Now Yolanda is trying to get back into the workforce. Geneva wonders what she can do to make sure she doesn't burden Yolanda when she herself grows too frail to live on her own.


The Martin-Hawkins Family

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    Kelley Hawkins smiles with her grandmother AnnaBelle Bowers, 87, while at lunch in Harrisburg, Pa.
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    LaDonna Martin applies makeup to AnnaBelle in her family's living room. Her limited mobility prevents her from doing daily activities independently.
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    AnnaBelle talks to her great granddaughter Carley, 17 (right), and her friends after they returned from lacrosse practice. "I'm not rich money-wise, but with my family I'm a millionaire," AnnaBelle says.
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LaDonna Martin, 40, and Kelley Hawkins, 46, joined forces to take care of Kelley's grandmother AnnaBelle Bowers. The two sisters-in-law, both nurses, live minutes from each other in the Harrisburg, Pa., suburbs. Two years ago they decided that AnnaBelle, now 87, needed to live with them, since she couldn't take care of herself anymore. She now rotates from one home to the other. LaDonna and her husband, David, a state police officer, have two children: Lauren 12; and Christopher, 14. LaDonna says that having AnnaBelle at home has made their children kinder and less self-centered. But taking care of AnnaBelle, who is barely mobile, has been stressful. Kelley and her husband, Scott, an insurance claims adjuster, are also paying their older daughter Chelsea's college costs, and they're getting ready to send their second daughter, Carley, to an expensive college this fall.

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