Challenges Faced by Millennial Caregivers

Older teenagers and young adults in their 20s aren’t the people we picture when we think of “caregivers.” Often we think of older adults, caring for much older parents. But it’s becoming more and more common for the younger generation—some not yet out of high school—to step in as caregivers for aging and ailing parents and grandparents.

Studies show that approximately 11 million caregivers in the United States are between the ages of 18 and 34 (Millennial’s) and fill this role in their families. These caregivers often have a unique perspective on their role and special needs for support. These include social support. Caregiving can be socially isolating at any age. But younger caregivers more frequently have peers who are not dealing with the same things they are—who are busy with friends, school, work, college applications, and other things more typical of their age group. It can be particularly socially isolating to be a younger caregiver.

Help to navigate the healthcare system. Again, this can be challenging for caregivers of all ages. Grandchildren, however, may face particular difficulties in obtaining healthcare information for aging grandparents due to HIPAA barriers; sorting out insurance issues; qualifying an elderly relative for health care benefits, and becoming an advocate for their grandparent in the healthcare system. This is difficult for people at any age, but it often puts an outsized burden on younger caregivers with less experience navigating this maze for themselves.

Caregiving support. Some young caregivers are the primary caregiver; others support parents and give their free time to tasks like helping a grandparent perform activities of daily living; driving the grandparent to doctor’s appointments; managing medications; and keeping them company. Young caregivers have to balance these demands with full-time school—from high school to college—as well as jobs and other activities.

Millennial caregivers are not immune to the emotional and mental health challenges that come along with caregiving. The landscape of support can be different for millennials than for older caregivers. Many millennials feel reluctant to identify with the term “caregiver,” for a multitude of reasons—often because they are not the only or primary caregiver in their elderly relative’s lives—and may not be targeted by organizations or programs that provide caregiving help or be aware of these resources. {Continue}

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