40 Million Americans Are Helping An Aging Parent. What Does This Mean for Millennials?

December 24th 2014

Karen Jordan

According to the Pew, about 40 million Americans are currently helping at least one elderly parent with tasks associated with their daily lives. For millennials, many of whom are balancing career pursuits with their own desires to get married and raise a family, the idea of being thrust into the role of caregiver for an aging parent can be daunting.

On average, first-time parents are four years older today than in 1970. Consequently, millennials are finding themselves caring for aging parents more quickly. 

I have felt guilty about not being available when my father, for example, has a doctor’s appointment. Should I take time away from work to take him? Sure, I remember as a child, watching my grandmother cook for and take care of her parents’ daily needs, after it became clear they could no longer care for themselves in their own home, but my grandmother was retired and in her 70s at the time!

AARP research says most caregivers have jobs, but 70% are obliged to “make workplace adjustments." US News & World Report said earlier this month that one out of every four households in the US is involved in some type of eldercare, and that number is growing, according to Kenneth Matos, senior director of research at the Families and Work Institute.

However, it’s not just about the challenges of becoming caregivers for parents. Some millennials are also helping to take care of aging grandparents. I can relate to this, having helped navigate the caregiving world for my 90-something-year-old grandmother, until her death. Even though I lived 1,900 miles away from her, I was paying her bills - thank goodness for online billing – and stressing out trying to remember to pay her rent on time at her assisted living facility in Georgia. That coupled with her doctor’s appointments, hospital bills, pharmacy charges, and ensuring her overall quality of life made for some stressful moments. But having lost my grandmother four years ago, I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything. 

What can help any caregiver, whether taking care of a parent or a grandparent, is learning how to handle the stress. Many experts suggest getting organized can help alleviate a lot of stress. I concur. Here are some of the best ways I have found to get organized enough to handle it all:

  • Keep receipts especially those related to healthcare and doctor’s visits, including parking receipts which can come in handy at tax time.
  • Keep all important documents filed, including, a living will, tax information and health insurance and retirement information. 
  • Organize business cards from doctor’s offices and keep phone numbers for their healthcare providers, health insurance and other information all in the same place, so you have easy access to it when you need it. 
  • Don’t hesitate to get professional assistance and find out from doctors or organizations, like the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, what options would work best for your family.