Millennial Caregivers

A Growing Group with Special Challenges

Women laughing in the back of a cab
Millennial Caregivers might have less time to party as they now represent 20% of family caregivers, some 10 million strong. Getty Images

While we typically think of caregivers as the baby boom generation, new research shows that Millennials are also affected. In fact, Millenial Caregivers are a fast growing group, some 25% of family caregivers with needs and challenges all their own.

The AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving routinely release reports about the state of caregiving. The typical caregivers are still baby boomers, ages 50-64. However of the 40 million caregivers out there, a full 10 million are Millennials and men are just as likely to be caregivers as women. The typical millennial caregiver is 27, works at a job 35 hours a week and has an average household income below the national median.

Why is this shift occurring? In previous generations, when women did not work, they had more time for caregiving. But these days, baby boomer women both need and want to work. So they need help. Because not only is the population aging but people are living longer.

With better diagnostic tools, people are being diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s at increasingly younger ages. That means millennials are not just helping out with grandma, but with their parents too.

Burden and Opportunity

At a time when many feel millennials are self-absorbed and working on their careers, they are being pulled into caregiving. What's more, this generation are still struggling to gain an economic foothold after the Recession.

Many young workers are trying to get a degree while they work; balancing childcare and caring for a grandparent or parent.

Yet, in some ways, Millennials are perfectly suited to be family caregivers.

More than 40 percent live with their parents at some point as adults, and they are marrying later than earlier generations.

They also may be particularly open to caregiving because they experienced less of a generation gap than baby boomers did with their own parents.

Boomer parents are also helping their kids out materially a lot more than in the ’50s and ’60s, so you get a sense of gratitude there.

The opportunity is that Millennials are brilliant at ­resource-finding. They will find or develop new technologies to make caregiving easier.

Millennials’ attitudes toward masculinity have changed, and their ideas of sharing more egalitarian work with women and seeing themselves as co-nurturers. That is a good thing.

How Can We Help?

So how can society help our caregivers? The burden of caregiving is the same no matter the age – and so some of the solutions span generations.

Of course, caregivers need to remember to take care of themselves first. That includes physical health, financial health, and emotional health.

The real change needs to come in the workplace. For the most part, caregivers, like those they are taking care of, are often stigmatized once they come out and let people know. The workforce culture has to change.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, there has actually been a steady decrease in the proportion of U.S. employers with eldercare programs. That is an issue.

Millennials predominantly work in service industries, which are less likely to offer paid sick days, paid family leave or work schedules.

We need to improve workplace leave policies. The Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act would create a national paid leave program. You would be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid leav

There are some progressive employers helping out.

  1. Some have implemented paid time off for caregiving in addition to PTO time.
  2. Some offer geriatric care management services. Fannie Mae was one of the first in the country to use the services of a full-time on-site eldercare consultant.
  3. The Duke Employee Elder Care Consultation Service offers a free, confidential elder care consultation for employees or family members of an employee.
  4. Another company permits employees to donate their PTO hours to assist others.
  5. Some employers implemented a volunteer-run program by employees. The companies provide some financial support for attendance at workshops.

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