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Millennials: The Next Generation of Caregivers

Millennials are defined as the generation born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. They are generally the children of baby boomers and older Gen Xers and these generations reach Medicare age in a time of longer life expectancies and medical advancements, more Millennials are stepping up and stepping in to care for their aging parents, grandparents and other relatives. In fact, a recent report by the National Alliance of Caregiving and the AARP Public Policy Institute shows that millennials now make up nearly a quarter of the approximately 44 million caregivers in the US and that number continues to grow. Whether it’s an unexpected diagnosis of a spouse, child, parent, grandparent, or other family member, caring for someone with a chronic condition can have rippling effects on each and every part of the way you live your life and many millennials are now being faced with the challenge to manage it all.

At a time when most are settling into their careers, planning weddings, vacations, babies, and living out the expectations of a late-twenty-something, millennial caregivers can be found managing medications, doctor appointments, work schedules, bills, emergency-admits to the hospital, and other endless tasks. The reality of caregiving sometimes comes years, or even decades before it’s ever expected.

Emotional toll coupled with the everyday demands of life is exhausting and can have a negative effect on the health of the caregiver, making respite essential at any age. Taking time to do something for yourself can help you relax, recharge, and remember that you’re still a young adult.

Juggling these responsibilities with the hopes of the average millennial can be complicated and stressful, which is why it’s so important to find a stable source of support. Data has shown that it is less likely for younger caregivers to have friends in their inner circle who are “in the same boat” when it comes to caregiving, opposed to older generations of caregivers. Support groups, in-person or online, can be a great way to meet some of the other 44 million millennial caregivers to find encouragement, friendship and comfort in knowing you’re not alone. There are groups that are tailored to particular diagnoses where caregivers can relate on more specified issues, but there are also groups that are all-inclusive where people can relate to more general concerns of caregiving. There are several options, so it’s about finding the right fit for you and what you’re looking for.

Younger caregivers are also finding themselves dealing with conditions that can be challenging to the most seasoned of medical professionals. As rates of dementia related conditions continue to rise, like early on-set Alzheimer’s disease, young adult children and even grandchildren are in need of education on diagnoses, healthcare systems like insurance, available resources and services to aid in their new caregiving role. The majority those caring for someone, particularly with dementia related diseases, report high or even very high levels of emotional stress. This emotional toll coupled with the everyday demands of life is exhausting and can have a negative effect on the health of the caregiver, making respite essential at any age. Taking time to do something for yourself can help you relax, recharge, and remember that you’re still a young adult.

Stay positive and remember that detours don’t necessarily block your path entirely but take you on a different route. Enjoy the ride, bumps and all. Look for the joy and meaning in moments that otherwise would have been overlooked. Remembering your focus and the reason you’re helping to care for your loved one brings purpose to those tough times. Keep up the great work and remember The Family Caregiver Support Program is here for caregivers of all generations. For more information on services and how we can help, please contact Family Caregiver Support Program at 978-683-7747 or http://www.esmv.org/programs-services/caregiver-support/.