By Anthony Cirillo
We typically think of family caregivers as women in the Baby Boomer generation, age late 40s to early 50s. But new information from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving reveals that a full 10 percent of family caregivers are Millennials. That's 10 million people.
The typical profile of this person is someone who is 27 years old, works part time, and has household income below the national medium.
Why the Sudden Upsurge?
My parent's generation were typically one income households with the man as the breadwinner. My generation, the Boomers, certainly are not. So while my mom could solely take care of my grandmother when she was in the nursing home, many in my generation can't—at least not if we want to maintain a two-income household.
So we Boomers need a little help with our older loved ones. And it seems Millennials are actually happy to help. And let's be clear, there are some circumstances where Millennials have had to step up for the care of their own parents. After all, diseases like early onset Alzheimer's are being diagnosed more frequently. But for the most part, Millennials are helping Boomers take care of what is left of the Greatest Generation and perhaps the first wave of Boomers.
Burden or Opportunity
This has placed a burden on Millennials who are supposed to be at a stage of life where they are absorbed in their own careers and families. Often they are balancing a career, getting advanced degrees, caregiving and raising children, making them some of the youngest to handle sandwich generation stress.
This makes caregiver Millennials a unique group. Of those 10 million Millennial caregivers, there is an equal split between men and women. That's a little different than the typical caregiver demographic, which skews toward women. But Millennials attitudes toward masculinity have changed and men are more likely to see themselves as nurturers, too.
Helping Them Succeed
Solutions to help caregivers are universal no matter what the age. But it is still a good reminder to remember that the health of the caregiver is paramount; caregivers must take care of themselves. Hopefully they are also learning lessons about the need to prepare sooner in life for their own aging process.
To better support Millennials, real change needs to come in the workplace. Caregivers are often stigmatized once recognized. That has to change.
Millennials often work in service industries that are more likely to not have paid time off, sick days, paid family leave or flexible work schedules. We have to give them support and flexibility.
Some best practices in the workplace include:
- Offering paid time off just for caregiving
- Offering geriatric care management services
- Letting other employees donate PTO time to help others
Millennial caregivers will continue to grow because as the population ages and more people are being diagnosed with dementia, including Alzheimer's. This is a societal issue that spans generations. Now that it has touched another generation, it's time to have more conversation around these issues.
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