Millennial Working Caregivers: Shattering Stereotypes

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Millennials often get a bad rap. Frequently depicted by the media as spoiled and entitled, many of us roll our eyes just hearing the term “Millennials.” Sometimes referred to also as Generation Y, Millennials include persons approximately ages 21-35 years old.

But it’s time to revisit those negative stereotypes about Millennials. AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) reports that 25% of all American caregivers are currently Millennials…and everyone can agree that most caregivers are far from spoiled and entitled.

Millennial working caregivers face challenges that distinguish them from Baby Boomer and Generation X working caregivers. Here are three ways Millennial working caregivers and their managers should be mindful of those differences:

1. Millennial working caregivers include many more men. Older managers of Millennial working caregivers may be surprised by younger male employees requesting FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) time or other caregiver benefits. This occurs because up until recently most working caregivers were women. While the average caregiver is still a 49 year old female, Millennial caregivers are more evenly split by gender.

2. They are typically less financial stable. Since Millennial working caregivers are still early in their careers, they need to be particularly mindful of the financial setbacks that may occur when they spend their own money on care for an older loved one. For example, Emily, a 28-year old graphic designer has stopped putting money in her 401K so she can contribute to her father’s assisted living costs. While every caregiver must be mindful of finances, someone Emily’s age needs to thoughtfully consider the long-term consequences of such a decision.

Employee assistance programs (EAP) through Human Resources should be mindful that while Millennial working caregivers may want to be generous with their older loved ones, they are still building up their own nest eggs and need to be careful not to jeopardize their futures. EAP staff should emphasize how experienced elder law attorneys can help the Millennials’ older loved ones create financial plans. EAP staff may also want to recommend that Millennial working caregivers rigorously mine community resources to determine the availability of grants or other financial help their older loved ones may qualify for.

3. Social media is second nature. Millennial working caregivers are often able to use technology and social media to their advantage when taking care of an older loved one. For example, 31-year old Dan, a restaurant manager, recently set up an account with www.lotsahelpinghands.com to help organize family members who are taking care of his grandfather who has Alzheimer’s disease.

But Millennial working caregivers can experience negative consequences of sharing too much on social media. While all caregivers should fit in leisure time to avoid burnout, they should use caution posting on social media about fun they are having on a sabbatical. For example Amy, a 24-year old sales representative took two weeks of FMLA to return to her hometown to help her mother who had double knee replacement surgery. One evening during this timeframe she went out for drinks with a friend and posted a bunch of photos of them at a bar drinking martinis. A coworker who viewed the pictures on Facebook made a snide remark at the office the next day saying, “it doesn’t look like Amy is too stressed out caring for her mother.” While Amy has every right to enjoy some downtime during her caregiving trip, it is important to be mindful of perception.

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