The coronavirus pandemic has exposed plenty of cracks and fault lines in several essential American institutions, from the medical system to our political leadership to the senior housing industry. In the arena of senior housing, the tragic death toll from COVID-19 that has devastated many nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the country provides stark evidence of staffing shortages and an unsustainable financial model. We predict the result may be a reawakening to the advantages of in-home care for more of America’s seniors.
Millennial Caregivers Are In for a Shock, Says Huffington Post
But caring for an aging loved one at home brings a unique set of challenges, and in many families those burdens are going to fall on today’s millennials. We’ve run quite a few articles on our AgingOptions Blog about the difficulties of being a caregiver, but this column from the Huffington Post grabbed our attention for being almost brutally honest when we first read it in 2018.
It’s written squarely at tomorrow’s generation of caregivers: the millennials, born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. The column, written by regular HuffPost contributor Ann Brenoff, has a title that immediately piques your curiosity. “This Is the Biggest Life Event That Millennials Don’t See Coming,” it warns – adding this clue in the subtext: “The Caregiving System Has Failed You.”
“Bad News” for Millennial Caregivers
Here at AgingOptions, we don’t necessarily share the author’s dystopian view of the life of a caregiver, but we do agree with Brenoff that our fragile caregiving system is going to be facing some unbearable strain as the baby boomers age. That’s the thrust of her article, warning millennials of the “nightmare scenario” that awaits them in the future. “You,” Brenoff warns her young readers, “are about to become my generation’s caregivers.” She goes on to paint an alarming assessment, based on a 2018 AARP report, titled “Millennials: The Emerging Generation of Family Caregivers.” (You’ll find a link to AARP’s 11-page report here.)
“Sorry to be the bearer of bad news here,” Brenoff writes to her millennial readers. “[Caregiving] will devastate you, leave you emotionally spent, make you physically ill and resentful at times. It could totally derail your career or force you to dip into your retirement savings ― and then one day it will abruptly end and leave you in a state of deep grief. Oh,” she adds, “and the government doesn’t really give a damn about any of this, so you are pretty much on your own.” Talk about a bleak assessment!
Millennial Caregivers Face the Prospect of Extra Hours, No Extra Pay
Brenoff refuses to sugar-coat the burden awaiting tomorrow’s caregivers. “Your caregiving responsibilities are just starting to rev up,” she tells millennials, about one quarter of whom are already putting in an extra 21 hours a week taking care of aging loved ones. “To be clear,” Brenoff adds, “that is 21 unpaid hours ― while you work at your real jobs and/or care for your own families at the same time.” The AARP report projects that roughly half of today’s millennials will someday be providing care for an elderly parent or in-law, and about half of those caregivers will be the sole care providers, with no one to assist them on a regular basis.
“As more people like me go not-so-gently into our elder years,” writes Brenoff in the HuffPost piece, “more of you will be asked to step up and take care of us. Why? U.S. public policy has lagged woefully behind today’s reality that 10,000 baby boomers a day are turning 65. And that burden is headed straight to your shoulders.”
Is Uncle Sam Listening to the Challenges Faced by Millennial Caregivers?
We won’t go into detail on the financial cost of all this to the unreimbursed caregiver, except to report that it is often a staggering burden, eating up (on average) roughly one-fifth of annual income in out-of-pocket expenses. For the average person over 50 who stops working to care for a parent, lost wages and benefits exceed $300,000 – earnings which can never be recovered. “To add insult to that injury,” says Brenoff, “a lower earnings history means reduced Social Security payments when you become eligible.”
Better government policies could help, such as tax credits for caregiving or Social Security credits so that caregivers don’t miss out down the road, but those tepid steps won’t ease the psychological or physical burden – and there’s little chance on the horizon of that load disappearing any time soon.
Is There Good News for Millennial Caregivers? We Think So
Is there a brighter side? Our answer is yes. First, many caregivers serve with great love and dedication, even joy, treating caregiving as a calling, as well as payback for all that mom or dad did for them. Second, if you’re worried about becoming a burden to your loved ones as you age, there is a proven solution in the form of a LifePlan from AgingOptions. With careful and comprehensive planning, you can prepare now to take that heavy weight of caring for you off the shoulders of your family – or at least make that weight far more manageable.
The AgingOptions LifePlan is part of a revolutionary approach to retirement planning that blends financial planning, legal protection, family communication, housing choices and medical coverage (for the short term and the long term) into one seamless strategy. There’s nothing else out there like it!
Two Important Retirement-Planning Announcements from AgingOptions
At AgingOptions our chief desire is to help you prepare for the kind of retirement you’ve always dreamed of having. Toward that end, we want to share two important announcements that are designed to facilitate your LifePlanning process even during this period when most of us are required to avoid gathering in groups.
First, Rajiv Nagaich has scheduled several of his popular, free LifePlanning Seminars in the form of webinars that you can watch conveniently at home. Simply visit our Events Page and register for the webinar of your choice.
Our second announcement: in cooperation with our partners at LifePoint Law, we are excited to launch a ground-breaking new service called the LifePoint Law Emergency Legal Kit. Without leaving your home, you can now consult with a LifePoint Law attorney who will work with you to prepare and sign a complete set of vitally important legal documents including both Financial and Healthcare Powers of Attorney, a Living Will/Advance Directive, a Will or Trust, and much more. Click on the link or call us at AgingOptions and we’ll explain this excellent service to you.
Reliable information has never been more important – and that’s our promise to you at AgingOptions and LifePoint Law. Age on!
(originally reported at www.huffingtonpost.com)