Millennials are caring for parents or other family members at much higher levels than ever before, facing a juggling act between growing careers, young families and caregiving aging parents. Almost one quarter of all caregivers are millennials, according to “Millennials and Dementia Caregiving in the United States.” This review of research compiled by UsAgainstAlzheimer’s and the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work also found that one in six care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
“The average age for millennial caregivers is 27,” says Lori Nisson, MSW, LCSW, Family and Community Services Director at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and Banner Sun Heath Research Institute in Arizona. “Millennials spend about 21 hours a week on caregiving and 75% of them work full time.”
Balancing work and caregiving
Building a career while caring for a parent has its own set of challenges.
“Many people don’t share their responsibilities with supervisors or coworkers for fear of missing out on job opportunities or being seen as an unreliable worker,” said Nisson.
But not sharing your outside responsibilities makes it even more difficult when you need time off for doctor’s appointments, transportation issues and emergent medical needs. Nisson recommends you speak with your supervisor about your caregiving responsibilities. Employers are becoming more receptive to supporting people with family commitments in order to retain their employees.
“Younger caregivers are also bearing some of the cost of care,” said Nisson. “In an AARP study, caregivers reported spending an average of $6,800 a year of their own money on caregiving expenses. Keep in mind this group also has the highest rate of student loan debt on top of the added financial pressure of caring for a loved one.”
Tips for millennial caregivers
Nisson provided some suggestions to help caregivers manage their new responsibilities:
- Attend medical appointments. Ask medical providers if they can schedule appointments at off times to make it easier for you to be there. If your loved one has a ride to their appointment, ask if you can participate via phone during the visit.
- Use trustworthy resources for information. The internet can be unreliable. Nisson recommends these web sites for the most accurate and nonbiased information: Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and local area Agencies on Aging.
- Hire a certified geriatric care manager. This is a nurse or social worker who can coordinate care, go to appointments to take notes for you, and be at the hospital for an unexpected admission. They usually charge by the hour, so you can manage the cost.
- Look for case management services. If finances are an issue, look for local nonprofits, Medicare Advantage plans and state Medicare long term care plans that offer lower cost services for managing care.
- Be sure advanced directives are in place. Your loved one should have powers of attorney for health care, mental health care and financial decision making. This will allow you to make decisions when your family member is no longer able to do so. Be sure to give these documents to providers, so they have permission to communicate directly with you.
- Sign up for a patient portal. Once you have healthcare power of attorney, you can usually sign up for access to your loved one’s patient portal to see their medical records. This will help you stay informed about their care, especially when you cannot make all their appointments.
- Explore respite programs. Adult day programs and respite services can give you a break from caregiving while providing your family member with social activities, regular meals and often some types of care.
In summary, Nisson recommends millennial caregivers seek support either through in person or online support groups. These can be found at many Alzheimer’s organizations, including those listed above. “Online support groups and education from reliable sources can help you be prepared and better care for both your loved one and yourself,” said Nisson.