When most of us process the term eldercare, thoughts and images come into our minds of taking care of our parents, or most important loved ones when they are too physically, mentally, or financially frail to care for themselves.
Research by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute, however, shows that millennial’s face unusual challenges when it comes to being there for those whom they love.
For starters, millennial’s have to step into the caregiver role a lot earlier than other generations. Researchers find that the typical age of the care recipient millennial’s need to assist is just 59.6 years old, most likely a female relative, often a parent or grandparent.
The average millennial providing this support is just 27 years old, and they are more likely to be helping their loved one with an emotional or mental health condition.
“Members of the millennial generation (ages 18 to 34) have a reputation for being self-involved. But the estimated 10 million millennials caring for adult family members certainly don’t fit that mold. About 25% of U.S. caregivers fall into that age range,” says Christina Ianzito, from AARP Bulletin.
The study also found that the average millennial caregiver has been providing help for nearly 3 years, and does so for little more than 21 hours a week, helping with such things as bathing, dressing, running errands managing.
As Derrick McDaniel, A.K.A., “Mr. Eldercare 101,” and author of Eldercare, The Essential Guide To Caring For Your Loved One And Yourself, points out, blacks carry the extra weight of cultural expectations.
“Blacks have one of the strongest cultural traditions of caring for their elders. It is very common for black families to co-locate and “take-in” their elders, who are the least likely demographic to opt for nursing homes,” he says.
McDaniel says there are, however, steps you can take to ease some of the burdens of care, while staying aligned with your desire to provide support.
- Accept the situation
- Communicate with family and friends—avoid isolation (usually from frustration)
- Ask for help (friends, family, employers, etc.) / share the workload
- Learn, recognize, and treat signs of depression
- Join support groups (in person or online)
- Make yourself a priority—it’s OK to admit that you still have needs (exercise, hobbies, date night, etc.)
- Have a back-up plan if the primary caregiver becomes unavailable
McDaniel also says it’s important to be realistic to elders and yourself—even on the best days things can and will go wrong. Expect it, accept it, and move on.