Millennial Caregivers: The Invisible Caregivers
Caregivers from Generation X are often referred to as the “sandwich generation,” where working adults are sandwiched between caring for an aging parent and raising their children. But as the need for eldercare continues, a significant number of millennial caregivers (between 18 and 34) have joined Gen Xers.
These “invisible caregivers” are an increasingly important part of the US’s caregiver force. According to a 2018 AARP report, an estimated 10 million millennials care for an aging loved one — about one in four family caregivers.
Family caregivers play a critical, though sometimes overlooked, role in the US. They spend many unpaid hours every week assisting their aging parents or loved ones with a range of tasks.
Gen X and millennial caregivers share many similarities. They wear multiple hats, juggle many responsibilities, and often face similar financial pressures. However, millennial caregivers are more likely to be enrolled in school and less likely to have the same support systems available to older generations of caregivers.
When caregivers of any age are equipped with the right resources, they can provide better care for their loved ones, perform better in their jobs, and take care of themselves. Understanding millennial caregivers’ unique characteristics and challenges is key to facilitating progressive changes that better support this group of caregivers.
Characteristics Of Millennial Caregivers
Millennial caregivers come from a diverse variety of backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. While the image of the typical caregiver is still a white woman in her late forties, the rate of those who are not white, female, or middle-aged is growing.
Most millennial caregivers assist an aging parent or grandparent who is about 59 years old and has one or more health conditions. These may be an extended physical issue followed by a short-term condition or an emotional or mental health concern.
The average older caregiver is 49 years old, according to AARP. But among millennial caregivers:
- 35% are between 18 and 24
- 34% are between 30 and 34
- 31% are between 25 and 29
Although women still make up most unpaid caregivers, millennials account for the growing number of male caregivers in the US. Men account for a whopping 47% of millennial caregivers — 10% higher than any other generation.
The report found that while ⅔ of Gen X and Baby Boomer caregivers are white, less than 44% of younger caregivers are white. Millennial caregivers have a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, and over half are people of color. Demographics data from 2015 found that among millennial caregivers:
- 27% were Hispanic
- 18% were black
- 8% were Asian American/Pacific Islanders
Age and ethnicity aren’t the only differentiating characteristics between younger and older caregivers. AARP’s report showed that millennial caregivers must juggle work and caregiving responsibilities more than previous generations.
Almost ¾ of younger caregivers work, with 53% employed full time. This group also spends about 21 hours every week caring for their loved ones, while over one in four spends more than 20 hours. About one in five assists with a loved one’s care 40 hours or more a week.
Although many millennial caregivers work full time, more than half make less than $50,000 each year. One in three makes less than $30,000 annually. Moreover, 27% of their income goes to assorted caregiving costs — the most of any generation.
Their extra responsibilities can significantly affect their career and make achieving higher-level positions or better pay even more difficult. Although 54% said caregiving strongly affected their careers, including receiving disciplinary action or warnings, most are less likely to discuss their burden with their employers.
Challenges Facing Millennial Caregivers
For example, many support networks and resources were developed primarily for the quintessential caregiver — a middle-aged female with a well-established career.
Unfortunately, there are fewer support systems in place for younger caregivers who, for example, may still be in school or who need affordable respite care.
Additionally, many may feel pigeonholed by the stereotype of the selfish, lazy millennial. This stereotype can cause feelings of insecurity when it comes to addressing critical health concerns. Younger caregivers might fear being dealt with like a child or being perceived as too ignorant to help.
Similarly, many millennials feel uncomfortable or anxious about finding resources and talking to their loved one’s doctors. These feelings can come from worries that professionals will disregard their concerns or not take their role as decision-makers seriously.
Resources For Millennial Caregivers
As the shift from older to younger caregivers takes place, the face of the family caregiver is changing. This transition will bring key policy and program changes, but many millennial caregivers have a pressing need for them now.
Fortunately, many organizations are focused on offering resources for family caregivers, including:
- AARP, whose Prepare to Care guide offers advice to new caregivers about communication, support networks, and finding time to practice self-care
- Scholarship prospects for students acting as caregivers
- The American Association of Caregiving Youth, a non-profit advocacy group promoting awareness of the challenges facing young caregivers and helping them find the proper resources
- Online forums and groups specifically for millennials and other young caregivers
- The Area Agency on Aging (AAA), a non-profit that can help millennial caregivers find local services for their loved one and themselves
While these organizations are instrumental in bringing about change, it’s just as important for younger caregivers to be their own advocates. Caregivers of any age should address their challenges with their employers and develop ways to remain committed to both roles.
More employers recognize the growing number of caregivers in the workforce. As a result, some offer homecare as a corporate benefit as well as other Employee Assistance. These programs can help caregivers better balance responsibilities in their homes and career.
Geriatric care managers can be a significant asset, as well. These trained professionals can help younger caregivers develop a care plan based on their loved ones’ needs. An elder law attorney is another option worth considering.
An elder law attorney can determine if the caregiver’s loved one is eligible for government benefits, adult day care, tax credits, and more. They can also help younger adults navigate the complex Medicaid system to ensure their loved one receives the most benefits possible.
We’re here for caregivers of every age. If you or a loved one need assistance with transportation, food delivery, or anything else, we can help.
Call 1-888-541-1136 or contact us online. We can help you find respite care options or talk about hiring a full-time or part-time caregiver.
Check out the Blog to find more resources for family caregivers and seniors.
- “’Life Interrupted’: More Millennials Are Becoming Caregivers in Their 20s and 30s.” Advisory Board Daily Briefing, 4 Dec. 2019, www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2019/12/04/millennial-caregivers.
- Abrams, Abigail. “The Challenging Life of a Millennial Caregiver.” Time, Time, 21 May 2018, time.com/5282340/millennial-caregivers-baby-boomers/.
- Flinn, Brendan. “Millennials: The Emerging Generation of Family Caregivers.” AARP, 22 May 2018, www.aarp.org/ppi/info-2018/millennial-family-caregiving.html.
- Hayes, Julie. “Navigation.” Millennials the New Generation of Caregivers, 13 Nov. 2019, www.benrose.org/-/resource-library/family-caregiving/millennials-the-new-generation-of-caregivers.
- National Alliance for Caregiving, and AARP. “The ‘Typical’ Millennial Caregiver Fact Sheet.” AARP, May 2020.