Millennials aren’t prepared for aging parents

Young carer walking with the elderly woman in the park

QUICK READ: Caring for an aging parent is a compassionate—but often stressful—undertaking. It can take a huge emotional toll on everyone in a family, but for women, who are far more likely to be caregivers vs. men, the financial impact can hit especially hard. But in addition to the costs, the psychological issues of getting older are sometimes very difficult to understand.

Medications and supplements have us all living longer but now that people are living longer society has no idea what to do with older Americans.

According to data collected by the National Alliance for Caregiving, there are over 66 million family caregivers in the United States. That translates to nearly 40 percent of the U.S. adult population…a stunning statistic. This number includes people who are caring for the sick or disabled, but the majority of these caregivers are assisting an elderly family member.

Millennials, who are already stressed out are going to have to deal with the costs and psychological issues of aging parents.

Understanding Aging

It’s true that 70 may be the new 50 but with each passing year, aging parents have to deal with a range of issues that often remind them of their own mortality.

At a certain age, they are going to start losing lifetime friends to prolonged illnesses and death. It’s very hard to lose someone who you have been friends with almost your entire life. It leaves you with an emptiness that in turn can lead to depression.

Then there is the maze that is our healthcare system. Even with Medicare, it’s hard for older Americans to coordinate doctor appointments when you move from a GP to the “oligists” (cardiologist, pulmonologist, etc). Often family members have to coordinate healthcare for aging parents.

It’s even more stressful when your parents won’t take care of themselves. A parent who has “given up” taking care of themselves is very stressful for all family members.

The guilt

The guilt of how much time to devote to an aging parent versus having a life of your own can be a heavy burden for millennials. When I was working trying to launch the biggest product ever at Eli Lilly my dad, who was in an assisted living home, would call me at work and leave messages all the time. He wanted me to bring him lunch and dinner because he didn’t like the food at the facility so balancing his needs with working 10-12 hour days was hard and riddled me with guilt. Aging parents often play the guilt card.

The cost

According to a MetLife study, adult-child caregivers in the U.S. suffer a cumulative loss of nearly $3 trillion in earnings. For sons, the average in total lost income (including wages, pension, and Social Security) is $283,716 per person. The news is even worse for daughters, who lose an average of $324,044 in total earnings as a result of their caregiving responsibilities.

More than 78 percent of family caregivers incur some form of out-of-pocket expense, according to AARP’s 2016 Family Caregiving and Out-of-Pocket Costs Report. And when it comes to total expenses, family caregivers roughly spend an average of $6,954 annually.

While housing and/or assisted living costs may vary based on Medicaid assistance, the type of services required, and other factors, the average cost of living in a private, one-bedroom assisted living facility in the United States is $3,750 per month, according to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey; the national median rate for in-home care is $22 per hour.

Employers ignore the Burden of Caregiving Employees

Caregiving is more than paying for childcare or a nursing home for elderly parents. More people are taking these responsibilities on themselves and it’s costing companies in productivity and skilled talent.

Companies do not calculate or understand the costs their workers incur when absent from the job or working when distracted or fatigued. High turnover and training costs are hidden from companies’ bottom lines while parents and elder caregivers are acutely aware of what they sacrifice in pay, time and mental strength. The rising cost of child and elder care is eating into earnings, leading workers — mainly women, who still shoulder the majority of caregiving responsibilities — to restrict their careers.

Of the three-quarters of workers who have some caregiving responsibility, 32 percent said they had to leave a position because they could not balance work and caregiving obligations. While 80 percent of workers claim caregiving impacts their productivity at work, only 24 percent of employers estimated caregiving affected employee performance.

Juggling Work and Caregiving

  • More than 1 in 6 Americans working full-time or part-time report assisting with the care of an elderly or disabled family member, relative, or friend. Caregivers working at least 15 hours per week indicated that this assistance significantly affected their work life. [Gallup-Healthways. (2011). Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.]
  • American caregivers are a diverse population with between 13% and 22% of workers juggling caregiving and being employed. 22% of caregiving workers are middle-aged and 13% are aged between 18 and 29. [Gallup-Healthways. (2011). Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.]
  • More than half of employed caregivers work full-time (56%), 16 percent work between 30 and 39 hours, and 25 percent work fewer than 30 hours a week. On average, employed caregivers work 34.7 hours a week.

Only 56% of caregivers report that their work supervisor is aware of their caregiving responsibilities (76% for higher hour caregivers, 49% for a lower hour). [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]A 2011 Gallup poll suggests that employers should provide the following:

A 2011 Gallup poll suggests that employers should provide the following:

1ne: An employee assistance plan to promote discussions about emotional distress experienced by the working caregiver.

2wo: Access to health counselors or “ask a nurse” for information on the care receiver’s condition.

3hree: Access to counselors or others to make referrals and give advice about assisted living or nursing homes.

Will it happen? I’m not sure since so many companies view these programs as expenses and employees as temporary assets but with an aging population, millennials are going be stressed out even more.