[WRITTEN BY TRUST & WILL PARTNER RIANKA R. DORSAINVIL - CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER]
I recall being a college senior deciding if I needed to go home to help take care of my nana or to finish college. Of course my nana wouldn’t allow me to come home to help take care of her, but it was a decision I had to ponder. This experience made me acutely aware of the emotional and mental toll that being a caregiver can bring. Little did I know, at age 22, I was already preparing myself to be a caregiver. A millennial's place in this world has significantly evolved from that of their parents. Between evolving career and familial expectations, we are truly a testament to the incredible benefits and constant challenges of existing and thriving in today’s modern society. This includes the role of being a caretaker, too!
Unlike our parents and grandparents generation, being a caretaker is no longer reserved for simply caring for an aging or sick family member. In fact, many individuals reading this article may already be caregivers and not even know it. We’re working with new definitions here. According to Torchlight Caregiving, “modern caregiving is the state of disposition of tending to a loved one’s extended and often complex array of care needs in today’s fast-paced, frequently shifting world.”
Fast-paced; frequently-shifting. Sounds about right.
Twenty-first century technology has become one of the leading industries, bringing digital tools, apps, and global communication like never before that assist in overall organization of households and medical care. As such, there is now a lot of information to be aware of and tools to better prepare for taking care of parents and older generations.
What challenges should you prepare for? Let’s discuss.
The Challenges of Longer Lifespans
Public healthcare has improved dramatically over the past few decades to extend the lifespan of our loved ones. In the United States recent reports place men at an average life expectancy of 75.1 years, and women at 80.5. Although this data has been impacted by the recent pandemic, overwhelmingly it is positive news, illustrated by a confluence of multiple efforts.
Infectious diseases are now more easily controlled and treated through antibiotics, antiviral medications and vaccines. Water resources and sanitation have seen new developments with improved testing, treating and storage facilities. Organic sustainable foods have become readily available on grocery store shelves. Indoor and outdoor fitness programs have dominated the landscape for the last couple decades.
With all these welcomed options available to maintain optimal health, the question has quickly become — who is going to take care of these older generations?
The Evolution of the Caregiving Role
In previous generations, caregivers would likely place a loved one into a nursing home where care would be administered round-the-clock by a staff of professionals. Now people want a different living experience, usually in the comfort of their own home. Modern caregivers must adapt, becoming more collaborative with their family units.
This trend has had a great impact on women who are now fully ingrained in the workplace. Unlike the generations that came before us, now every man and woman is faced equally with this challenging task. A January 2021 article from Benefits Pro shared, “According to the Caregiving in the US report from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, there are an estimated 53 million caregivers in the United States, up from the estimated 43.5 million caregivers in 2015. The pandemic has only increased the crisis workers were already facing. According to the Torchlight Report of Working Caregiver Concerns, employees are self-reporting a 35.5% rise in anxiety and depression since mid-March 2020 as they juggle their work lives and families.”
Today’s caregivers are saddled with more responsibilities and more stress. Millennials, it’s time to take control.
What Millennials Need to Know
When becoming a caregiver, your options will likely come down to a choice between nursing homes, home care or family support. The decision can be tricky and may take some navigating of personal relationships and finances. Whether or not you get along with your siblings and family, stepping up to discuss the caretaking of a parent or grandparent will likely be required at some point — especially if your loved one does not have a plan in place or the finances to support your decisions.
Consider what your personal financial situation looks like. Are you able to afford caretaking for your loved one?
Some of the other key factors for consideration may include:
Interviewing and hiring home health care professionals
Sharing calendars with family members and hired help
Understanding how Medicaid works
Becoming educated on care facilities away from your home base
Willingness to travel to provide caretaking duties
How to talk to a loved one about giving up driving when they are no longer driving safely
Relocation considerations if your loved one refuses to move; how it will affect your job and quality of life
Scheduling doctors appointments and taking time off work
Sharing calendars with family members and hired help
Managing disorders and injuries
How to mentally and emotionally handle a loved one who comes down with dementia or a severe illness
Handling end of life support
Don’t Forget Estate Planning and Finances
One of the most intimidating aspects of caregiving is tending to legal matters. Confronting these dealings can be challenging, because most individuals have never had any education or prior experience in handling this type of responsibility. If a loved one has not taken care of estate planning in advance, a caretaker must assign a power of attorney, assist with wills, review health and life insurance policies, navigate any veteran benefits and become privy to any existing trust funds. The caretaker may also need to make decisions about appointing an executor of a trust, which can be daunting.
If you need further clarification (which many of us will) Trust & Will Head of Legal, Patrick Hicks, wrote an excellent article on understanding the power of attorney rights and limitations, which I encourage you to review.
Charting the Path Forward
Our generation is the largest living and working cohort to ever walk the face of the planet. Understanding the process in advance will offer the best solutions for the future. Preparing for unseen circumstances will supply relief and reduced stress when the time comes to start making important decisions about your loved ones.
Are you a modern caregiver? What are the biggest caregiving challenges you see in the future? What strategies will you implement to soften the impact?