Young man helping senior with dinner tray.

Millennials Are Providing Elderly Care

We often have a stereotype of the typical millennial (someone born between 1981 and 1996).  This generation is often portrayed as technology-fixated, self-absorbed and focused mainly on relationships on social media. 

But this snapshot leaves out some very surprising realities when it comes to how millennials and their grandparents interact.  Grandchildren are probably not the first people that come to mind when we think of family caregivers. Yet nearly one-quarter of America’s caregivers are between ages 18 and 34, part of a rising generation that is shouldering more responsibilities as their parents and grandparents age.

According to recent reports by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, an estimated 9.5 million millennials now serve as primary caregivers, usually to a parent or grandparents.

Millennials are different from older caregivers.

Mature caregivers are typically female and in their 40's or 50's.  They have a few decades of living behind them and have experience taking care of themselves, a spouse and children. Millennial caregivers, however, are just as likely to be male as female. The typical millennial caregiver is 27, works at a job 35 hours a week and has an average household income below the national median. 

In addition, grandchildren who care for elderly parents or grandparents don't have a lot of life experience yet, or the time they need to build their own careers and peer relationships. 

Their friends are in college or starting careers with active social lives and the flexibility to make plans at a moment's notice. They don't understand the responsibilities of a peer who serves as a caregiver for 12 or more hours each week. Young caregivers are on the same 24/7 emotional rollercoaster that older ones can find exhausting, but they have a smaller reservoir of experience behind them and fewer supportive peers. 

As a caregiver, you deserve support, too.

While caring for a grandparent can be wonderfully rewarding, it also can be daunting. If you are a millennial caregiver or know someone who is, make sure you remember to follow your dreams and build your future. Don't let guilt keep you from doing either. 

With appropriate help, you can continue to assist in your grandparent's care while you still have the life, someone, your age should have. Here are some tips and resources that can help:

  1. Find a mentor. Reach out to community senior organizations or places of worship and ask for someone who can help guide you on this caregiving journey.

  2. Consider hiring in-home care or having your grandparent live in an assisted living community. You may need support to help a loved one live safely at home, or explore options for assisted living if someone you're caring for needs more attention and care than you can provide.

  3. Consult a professional if you observe unusual behavior. If your loved one is acting out of character, seems uncharacteristically forgetful or you're worried that they should no longer be driving, consult a primary care physician or geriatrician to intervene. 

  4. Check out the National Family Caregiver Support Program for services that are available to adult family members who provide in-home care for a person age 60 or older.

  5. Don’t forget about YOU!  Your family would want you to continue with school or career building opportunities and enjoy friendships. 

Above all, don't be shy asking for the help you need when providing elderly care.