Healthy families include older adults

I often speak of families while on the proverbial campaign trail, but for me the word family goes beyond parents and young children. Since Amy and I moved back to Central Oregon in 2014, we have lived in a multi-generational household with our kids, my mom Robyn, and mom’s long-time partner Doug, who I affectionately call my step-dad.

My mom helps us with the kiddos to the point we refer to her as a third parent, and we help mom and Doug so they can age in place. Best of all, the kids were able to stay home through the pandemic and never had to forego a hug from grandma.

That’s not to say six people (and five dogs!) sharing a home is always easy, but I’m thankful every day that we made the choice to live in a multi-generational household as one big family.

Three generations of Tatoms celebrating Grandma’s birthday

As Deschutes County Commissioner, I will build upon the good work already being done by the Family Support Services team. We can do more for new and expectant parents – providing carseat checks, for example, to reduce death and injury from motor vehicle collisions – but we can also expand our definition of “families” to include our elders and provide services that help older adults maintain their health and independence. For example, I would support a fall prevention program.

As a paramedic, I responded to more calls for “fall” than I can possibly count. While most of these were non-injuries and I had to do little more than help someone back into their bed or chair, a “simple” ground-level fall all too often resulted in a devastating injury. There are many evidence-based programs to reduce the risk of injury from a fall, and I would work with trauma surgeons, orthopedists, nurses, and physical therapists to build a sustainable program to help our older family members remain in their home and out of hospitals and nursing facilities.

For more information on public health approaches to fall prevention, visit:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Older Adult Falls

Oregon Health Authority: Falls Prevention for Older Adults

Many thanks to palliative care physician Dr. Jennifer Neahring for this suggestion!