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As baby boomers age, more and more millennials are becoming caregivers. Many are taking on this role while just getting started in their own professional and personal lives, leading to difficult decisions about priorities. Proper planning can help when it comes to navigating this terrain.
The term sandwich generation refers to the baby boomers who were taking care of their parents while also having young children of their own. Now millennials are moving into the sandwich generation at a younger age than their parents did. According to a study by the AARP, one in four family caregivers is part of the millennial generation (generally defined as being born between 1980 and 1996).
And a study by Genworth found that the average age of caregivers in 2018 was 47, down from 53 just eight years earlier. Gretchen Alkema, vice president of policy and communications at the SCAN Foundation, told the New York Times that the rise in younger caregivers may be due to baby boomers having kids later in life than their predecessors. Also, many baby boomers are divorced, so they do not have a spouse to provide care.
Younger caregivers have different challenges than older caregivers. They may have younger kids to manage and careers that are just beginning. Additionally, more millennial men are caregivers compared to the numbers in previous generations. The AARP study found that millennials spend an average of 21 hours a week on caregiving, and one in four spend more than 20 hours per week. 53% also hold a full-time job in addition to their caregiving duties, and 31% are working part time. Younger caregivers are also less likely to discuss their caregiving duties with their employer than previous generations did.
Without question, managing caregiving duties, family and employment at the same time is stressful. Having plans in place can help alleviate some of the stress, and the earlier you plan ahead, the better.
The following are resources you can use when putting together a long-term care plan:
- Long-term care insurance can help lessen some of the costs of caregiving if it is purchased early enough.
- A geriatric care manager can help determine what care is needed and where to find resources.
- An elder law attorney can draft essential documents like a power of attorney and a health care proxy, as well as advise you on available benefits, such as Medicare, Medicaid, or Veteran’s Administration benefits.
- Adult day care can give caregivers a much-needed break.
Having resources in place will help, but you also need to be mindful of when you need help. Recognize when you are being stretched too thin and consider your priorities. If possible, talk to your employer about instituting flexible hours. Consult with other family members and do not be afraid to delegate tasks. Also make sure to take care of yourself by eating well, exercising and finding time to relax.