Nearly A Quarter of Caregivers Are Millennials

Nearly A Quarter of Caregivers Are Millennials
WebMD News from Kaiser Health News

By Shefali Luthra

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Caring for older relatives is usually a task associated with Baby Boomers, the 50- and 60-somethings who find their aging parents need assistance. But almost a quarter of the adults who take care of older people – on top of their regular jobs and responsibilities – are between the ages of 18 and 34, according to research by the AARP Policy Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving.

As millions of Americans are expected to live longer than they used to – often losing the ability to do so independently – their families and communities are grappling with how best way to take care of them. KHN focused on the problem in a Dec. 2 webinar with advocates and policymakers.

About 40 million Americans considered themselves caregivers in 2013, according to an AARP report, said Susan Reinhard, senior vice president at the AARP and one of the webinar’s panelists. Those people are typically women, and their median age is 49. The work they do caring for older relatives – usually parents and grandparents – was estimated that same year to be worth about $470 billion.

And it often takes a toll. Of the caregivers who participated in a support program run by the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living (ACL), about one third said they spend more than 40 hours per week caring for an older relative. More than 1 in 4 labeled stress as the most significant challenge they faced; 11 percent said financial strain. Another 16 percent said their biggest concern was not having enough time to do everything.

Almost 90 percent of people who care for their older relatives perform medical tasks, like managing medications or taking care of wounds, said Edwin Walker, the ACL’s deputy assistant secretary for aging. Often, those people don’t have medical training.

“A significant number are doing more than just the basic assistance with family living,” Walker said.

The issue has started getting more attention from policymakers. A number of bills pending in Congress could alleviate some of the pressures caregivers face, for instance offering Social Security credits for people who have to take care of their relatives, said Kathleen Kelly, executive director of the Family Caregiver Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy organization. These credits would help people who had to drop out of the workforce to take care of a family member preserve their contribution to Social Security retirement benefits.

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