We’ve all heard of grandparents pitching in to help take care of their grandchildren, but a new generation is turning that around. It turns out that many grandchildren (especially Millennials) are taking on caregiving duties for their elderly family members. In fact, according to a report conducted by the AARP Public Policy Institute, one in four caregivers is a Millennial. FirstLantic explores why this trend is increasing and the resources that young caregivers can take advantage of to help them cope with the challenges.
There are several factors that are responsible for this reversal in roles. The first is that people are living longer, and younger people have spent more time with their grandparents as a result. Strong bonds have been developed and younger people see an opportunity to give back to those that may have taken care of them when they were children. In addition, Millennials are the most diverse generation in U.S. history with a large percentage being of Hispanic, Afro-Caribbean and Asian ethnicities. These cultures have a long history of strong familial bonds and a great respect for the elderly.
And while this role reversal is increasing, it does not mean that the challenges decrease for the caregiver. All caregivers make sacrifices, but younger caregivers may have to sacrifice even more. After all, they are just starting their own lives as adults and they now have the additional burden of caring for someone else. As a result, they may be putting their social or professional life on pause or be unable to save money while they take on extra responsibilities. Although it can feel overwhelming, research by Christine Fruhauf, PhD (Colorado State University) and Nancy Orel, PhD (Bowling Green State University) found that many grandchildren have a positive view of their role as caregiver. They want their grandparent to be happy and recognize that he/she won’t always be around. That said, it can be a tough role to take on at such a young age so Firstlantic has compiled some ideas to help caregivers cope with the responsibility.
1. It is important for younger caregivers to realize they are not alone in their journey. Whether that involves talking to another relative or seeking out support from a community organization or place of worship, they should not be afraid to ask for guidance or a helping hand.
2. Seek out local non-profits or government agencies that can offer free or discounted services such as Healthfinder.gov for advice on healthy living and Eldercare locator which helps with transportation options for seniors. For a complete list of resources, you can download this guide.
3. Consider contacting an in-home care agency to provide additional support. In-home caregivers can help with household duties, medication and pain management, dementia care, transportation as well as other services.
4. Senior centers can be a great way for a loved one to socialize and connect with other people their own age while also offering the caregiver some much-needed free time.
In summary, it can be extremely rewarding to take care of a loved one, but it can also be demanding and stressful.The most important thing is for caregivers to find balance and not feel guilty about devoting time to their own careers or social lives.Your loved one would not want you to completely sacrifice your happiness in order to care of them. As Mother Theresa famously said, “It is not how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing.”