Life Matters Media
Quality of life at the end of life

Millennials: The Not-So Future Face Of American Caregiving

BY DANIEL GAITAN | daniel@lifemattersmedia.org

A quarter of all American family caregivers are millennials, and nearly half of these young people are minorities, according to a new report from AARP highlighting their struggles.

Millennials, a diverse group of adults roughly 18 to 34, account for nearly 10 million of the nation’s 40 million caregivers. Caregivers may help their ill and aged loved ones with bathing, shopping, eating and basic medical tasks to help them remain at home for as long as possible.

According to Caregiving in the U.S., millennial caregivers are far more racially and ethnically diverse than older generations of caregivers. More than one in four (27 percent) are Latino, and nearly one in five (18 percent) are African-American. About 8 percent are Asian-American.

Less than half (44 percent) of millennial family caregivers are white, according to the study, compared with more than two-thirds (67 percent) of caregivers in older generations.

On average, millennial caregivers spend 21 hours per week caring for a loved one —the equivalent of a part-time job. The average millennial caregiver has been caring for a loved one for about three years.

The vast majority of these young caregivers are also employed full or part-time.

To help this population cope with the stresses of caregiving, employers must be flexible, according to Brendan Flinn, an analyst with the AARP Public Policy Institute.

“In the coming years, millennials will become an even more dominant share of the labor force,” Flinn writes. “The greater number of millennial family caregivers employed will bring a greater need for flexible and supportive workplace leave policies.”

As young Americans rise to the challenge of caring for the aging population, AARP and United Way Worldwide are collaborating to educate the public about their struggles.

The nonprofits launched the “Do You Care Challenge” this spring, an animated online tool that helps users get a sense of what a typical day is like for stressed-out caregivers.

The “Do You Care Challenge” walks users through the different lives of four young caregivers. It explains the diverse scenarios of these characters, prompting users with questions regarding how they would advise the caregiver to make a decision or overcome an obstacle.

The right answers are, as in real life, often unclear.

For example, “Julianne” is a 26-year-old single mother who works two jobs, one in an office and another in retail. She is tasked with watching out for “Aunt Mary,” who suffers from crippling arthritis.

Julianne, whose own mother lives two hours away, struggles to bring her aunt the groceries which Mary urgently needs – and make it to work on time.

“I notice you get a lot of phone calls at work that don’t seem to be work-related. Is this going to be an ongoing problem?” Julianne’s boss wants to know.

Julianne worries about losing her job. She’s also worried about disappointing her aunt, as well as her mom. Her feelings are layered and complex, and she feels guilty about sometimes resenting her obligations. Julianne’s social life is non-existent.

“Millennial caregivers face unique challenges, as their peers often do not relate to their experiences and bosses may not expect them to be providing care for an adult loved one,” Bob Stephen, AARP vice president of health and caregiving programs, told Life Matters Media. “Raising awareness of the issues millennial caregivers face is the first step towards creating a more supportive environment.”

The challenge also provides links to other online resources and the contact information of programs offering help.