By Linda Shrieves


ORLANDO, Fla. — Like many adults, especially those who live hundreds of miles from their parents, Yvonne Williams didn't recognize the signs that her mom needed help. In phone conversations, her mom sounded normal.

What Williams, who lives in Orlando, Fla., didn't know was that her mom hadn't paid her rent on her New York City apartment in a year — and was in the process of being evicted. And that's when she realized that her mom, a retired corrections officer whom she'd always viewed as a strong, independent woman, needed some help.

But Williams and her mother had never discussed what they might do when this time came. Where would she live? How would they pay for it? Like many children with aging parents, Williams had to make a decision in an emergency. Facing a bill of $22,000 in back rent, she flew to New York, packed up her mom's apartment and moved her to Orlando.

Stories like hers are likely going to become more common in the United States as the 78 million baby boomers age and create what demographers are calling a "silver surge."

Between 2000 and 2007, the number of elderly parents moving in with their kids jumped 67 percent. And experts expect that trend to continue, thanks to the high cost of housing, the cost of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and the nation's struggling economy.


Realizing that mom or dad can no longer take care of themselves is not an overnight discovery. Instead, many families realize it bit by bit, as they slowly notice that mom is having trouble driving. Or that dad's stopped eating. "All caregivers usually wait until some kind of crisis occurs to even look into other living arrangements," said Mary Ellen Grant , executive director of Share the Care, an Orlando-based caregivers' support network. "They wait until the person sets the house on fire, or leaves the water on and floods the house."

For Williams, 48, the process took several turns. First, she helped her mom, Carole Riddick , now 70, settle into an apartment near her Orlando home, so she could keep tabs on her.

"I still didn't know how bad things were," Williams said. Although her mom was still dressing herself and taking her dog on walks, she had stopped cooking altogether. She ate primarily peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.

So Williams brought over meals, or bought her mom microwave dinners. She visited her mom daily, before or after her full-time job at Florida Hospital College, where she was an enrollment specialist.

This is not the retirement Williams envisioned for her mom. "I figured she was going to retire, stay in New York and take vacations," she said. "We absolutely never thought this would be our life."


Care for the elderly can be pricey, particularly for middle-class and working class families. Nursing homes cost an average of $200 a day, while assisted-living facilities can cost $30,000 a year. Given the rising cost of health care and the growing elderly population, it's likely that many Americans may invite elderly parents to live with them in coming years.

"I think there's going to be a real trend for multi-generational families living together," said Raymond Reiss , a former nursing home administrator and author of "How to Keep Your Parents Safe and Sound And Out of a Nursing Home." "In the current environment, people may say they'll do anything to take care of mom and dad, but there may be a reality check about what they can afford."

Unfortunately, experts say, most families don't discuss how to handle the aging of their parents and how and where mom or dad will live.

"People don't want to talk about that," said Mary Ellen Grant , executive director of Share the Care, an Orlando-based caregivers' support network. "Everybody thinks they're going to die in their sleep. The truth is: Almost nobody does."

Aware that her mom was deteriorating, Williams checked into assisted living facilities, but the price — $2,500 to $3,000 a month — was steep. Even if they could afford it, her mom would have to move into an Alzheimer's facility within a year.

Yet for Williams, there weren't many options. Her only brother couldn't help; he was in prison in New York. So Williams took in her mom.

"If I didn't do it," she says, "who would?"

Experts say that in many American families, it's assumed that daughters will become the designated caregiver, even if no one ever asked them.

"If there are brothers and sisters, the sister is far more likely to be expected to take care of mom. The sons are more likely to say, 'It's not my job,'" said Ida Cook , a sociologist at the University of Central Florida. "And if there's a male child and mom moves in with him, it's his wife who ends up being the caregiver for his mom."

Today, Yvonne Williams thinks she's found a solution that works for all the generations under her roof. She quit her full-time job and is now working part-time as an administrative assistant. Each morning, she drops her mom off at an adult day-care center. Her mom seems happy there.

As for Williams, she's trying to stay positive. "The main thing I have to do," she says, "is remember to laugh and breathe."