Family Matters: Pitching In To Take Care Of Grandma

  • Chris Martin, 14, greets his great-grandmother AnnaBelle Bowers, 87, who lives part time with the Martin family in Harrisburg, Pa. Occasionally, Chris stays at home to watch "Snootzie," as the family affectionately calls her, when his parents are busy.
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    Chris Martin, 14, greets his great-grandmother AnnaBelle Bowers, 87, who lives part time with the Martin family in Harrisburg, Pa. Occasionally, Chris stays at home to watch "Snootzie," as the family affectionately calls her, when his parents are busy.
    Kainaz Amaria/NPR
  • The Martin family (from left) — David; Chris, 14; Lauren, 12; and LaDonna — gather around AnnaBelle as they look through a photo album of a family vacation.
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    The Martin family (from left) — David; Chris, 14; Lauren, 12; and LaDonna — gather around AnnaBelle as they look through a photo album of a family vacation.
    Kainaz Amaria/NPR
  • LaDonna talks on the phone with AnnaBelle's granddaughter and LaDonna's sister-in-law, Kelley Hawkins, while helping AnnaBelle with her makeup in her family's living room.
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    LaDonna talks on the phone with AnnaBelle's granddaughter and LaDonna's sister-in-law, Kelley Hawkins, while helping AnnaBelle with her makeup in her family's living room.
    Kainaz Amaria/NPR
  • LaDonna and Kelley, both nurses, have been jointly caring for AnnaBelle for the past few years, moving her from one home to another every two weeks. She needs assistance with most routine daily activities.
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    LaDonna and Kelley, both nurses, have been jointly caring for AnnaBelle for the past few years, moving her from one home to another every two weeks. She needs assistance with most routine daily activities.
    Kainaz Amaria/NPR
  • Kelley and her brother, David, wait for their grandmother to catch her breath as she moves from the living room to the car. AnnaBelle's mobility is significantly hampered by rheumatoid arthritis.
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    Kelley and her brother, David, wait for their grandmother to catch her breath as she moves from the living room to the car. AnnaBelle's mobility is significantly hampered by rheumatoid arthritis.
    Kainaz Amaria/NPR
  • "I just feel like a burden, but the girls don't even think that way of me," AnnaBelle says. Although her movement is hampered, AnnaBelle's sense of humor remains sharper than ever, and she often makes jokes or sings.
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    "I just feel like a burden, but the girls don't even think that way of me," AnnaBelle says. Although her movement is hampered, AnnaBelle's sense of humor remains sharper than ever, and she often makes jokes or sings.

    Kainaz Amaria/NPR
  • Chloe, the Martins' Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, stands in the family's driveway. "Hopefully they will learn how to take care of someone else, like me ... when I'm old," says David of his children.
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    Chloe, the Martins' Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, stands in the family's driveway. "Hopefully they will learn how to take care of someone else, like me ... when I'm old," says David of his children.
    Kainaz Amaria/NPR

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On a recent evening, the Martin family of Harrisburg, Pa., had too many places it needed to be.

AnnaBelle Bowers, the 87-year-old matriarch of the family who is also known as "Snootzie," was at home — watching television and getting ready for bed.

Someone needed to care for her. That fell to Chris Martin, her 14-year-old great-grandson.

His willingness to stay at home meant his sister, Lauren, could play in a softball game.

It also meant her parents, David and LaDonna Martin, could watch.

The Martins are faced with decisions like this all the time — and they're one of the families profiled in NPR's Family Matters series. More and more, multigenerational families like the Martins are living under the same roof in order to care for a loved one — and also get by.

LaDonna says nights at the ballpark would be impossible if everybody didn't pitch in to care for Snootzie. That includes the kids.

"I think we expect a little bit more from them," says LaDonna. "They've got to grow up."

It's also forcing the family to think about the future in new ways.

"I hope they're fit when they're 60, 70s, 80s," Lauren says about her parents. "But I know it'll be time when they're in a walker and can't walk anymore and need help ... but I'll be ready when they're old."

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