The cycle of young and old ensures that today’s caregivers will need a caregiver themselves at some point in their lives. If we were asked to imagine a typical caregiver looking after the needs of a sick or an aging person, most of us would picture a man or a woman in their 70’s or 80’s, caring for their spouse. The reality is quite…young.

There are 40 million unpaid caregivers in America, and one fourth of them, or 1 out of every 4 caregiver, is a millennial taking care of an aging baby boomers, all the while holding a job. Millennials have been boxed into several stereotypical labels. They are often misrepresented as being entitled and lazy, so this finding pretty much knocks that stereotype out the window.
AARP conducted a study titled, “The Emerging Generation of Family Caregivers”, where they took a closer look at, among many other things, how exactly being a young caregiver affected a Millennial’s life.

Here are the 3 key findings:
Finance: 1 out of every 4 millennial caregivers work, 1 in 3 of those employees earn less than $30,000 annually.
Tasks: The tasks that millennial caregivers perform are as complex as older caregivers, and they spend 20 hours more every week providing care.
Type of Support: 1 in 3 millennial caregiver cares for someone with emotional and mental health problem.

Some positive news about this new generation of caregivers is that men, as much as women, are stepping up to the roles of being a caretaker. Gender roles are changing and millennial men are ready to do what traditionally was boxed up as a “woman’s job.” This is great to hear because with a growing population of older adults in need, and a shortage of caregivers, we can never have too many helping hands.

Challenges of Being a Young Millennial

During a phase of life where their friends may be focused on building a career, forming relationships, and starting a family of their own, these young caregivers spend their after-work hours taking care of an aging parent or grandparent. This can be psychologically frustrating, and thus, it isn’t surprising that 40-70% of them face symptoms of depression.

Long distance caregivers also face overwhelming guilt when they can’t visit their loved ones who are sick frequently enough. Millennials also report that it is hard for them not worry about the possibility of mistreatment, neglect or quality of care that their loved one might be receiving from a temporary caregiver. Even if they are local they mention that it is difficult, and expensive, when they have to hire another caregiver because they can’t provide a full-days care due to other commitments.

Caregiving can be isolating, especially at an age when it’s more common to spend time having fun with friends or socializing with peers at college and work. In addition, talking to friend’s about caregiving stresses might not feel as cathartic because unless they are a caregiver, there are many things that they won’t understand.

Navigating the healthcare system alone can be challenging too. Tasks like knowing where to obtain relevant health information, talking to medical staff, handling HIPPA barriers, and insurance issues, can be a lot to take in at any age, but especially if the caregiver is younger.

We All Need To Step Up

There are many things we can do to support millennials while they, putting their own dreams aside, selflessly take on the challenging role of a caregiver. Schools and universities can provide them with financial assistance for those interested in continuing their education. Many organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association and AARP already provide caregivers with resources that can help them settle into their new role with more knowledge.

Employers can help staff members who are part-time caregivers by providing a week or two of paid leave, just like AARP does for their employees with their “Caregiving Leave” and “Phased Retirement” initiative.

This sea of young caregivers is juggling their responsibilities like pros while still taking care of many. It’s not a sea of entitled souls but one full of selfless and empowered individuals.

To reach Dr. Abramson please contact us via email or call us at (877) 895-3680.

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