The “Sandwich” Generation
The term “sandwich generation” was coined to refer to baby boomers who were taking care of their parents while also having young children of their own. Now, as baby boomers age, more and more millennials are moving into the sandwich generation, and are often doing so at a younger age than their parents did. In contrast to their parents, many millennials are taking on this role while they are just getting started in their own lives, leading to difficult decisions about priorities. Proper planning can help!
According to a study by the AARP, almost one in four family caregivers is part of the millennial generation, which is generally defined as those born between 1980 and 1996. Another study by Genworth found that the average age of caregivers in 2018 was 47, whereas in 2010, the average age of caregivers was 53. Gretchen Alkema, vice president of policy and communications at the SCAN Foundation, told the New York Times that one reason for the rise in younger caregivers is because baby boomers had kids later in life than their predecessors, meaning that these kids were relatively young when their parents began to require care. Furthermore, because baby boomers divorced at a higher rate than previous generations, the kids are called upon to fill the caregiving role that, in previous generations, may have been filled by a spouse.
Younger caregivers have different challenges than older caregivers. Their kids are younger and their careers are just beginning. The AARP study found that millennials spend an average of 21 hours a week on caregiving, and one in four spend more than 20 hours per week. More than half (53 percent) also hold a full-time job in addition to their caregiving duties and 31 percent work part-time. Younger caregivers are also less likely to discuss their caregiving duties with their employer than previous generations. Reflecting changing social dynamics, more millennial men are taking on caregiving roles compared to previous generations.
Resources for Long-Term Care Planning
Balancing caregiving duties, family, and employment is stressful even under the best of circumstances. By planning ahead for your own care, you can help alleviate some of this stress for your loved ones. Because life is unpredictable and circumstances can change in an instant, the earlier you plan ahead, the better. The following resources are important parts of a comprehensive long-term care plan:
Long-term Care Insurance
Long-term care insurance must be purchased well in advance of your anticipated need of care. If purchased early enough, a good policy will provide a break for your family members by providing coverage for paid caregiving services.
Aging Life Care Managers
A geriatric or aging life care manager can help determine what care is needed and connect you and your family members with community resources. To find an aging life care manager in your area, visit aginglifecare.org.
Elder Law Attorneys
An Elder Law attorney can draft essential documents like a Power of Attorney and a health care proxy, as well as advise you on available benefits, such as Medicaid, or Veteran’s Administration benefits. To see how else an Elder Law attorney can help you, click here.
An Elder Law attorney can help you identify benefits for which you may be eligible. For example, the COPES (Community Options Program Entry System) Program is designed to allow individuals who require care to receive that care while residing at home or other in community living environments. To learn more about the COPES program, click here.
By planning ahead and identifying resources before there is an emergency, you will make it easier for your loved ones to take on the rewarding yet challenging responsibilities of caregiving.