Caregiving is increasingly falling to young people, especially minority millenials

Employers and government have a responsibility to help ease the burden for those caring for loved ones with dementia

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an elderly person sitting with hands folded in her lap

 Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

With Alzheimer’s disease expected to impact 16 million individuals in the US by 2050, younger generations will increasingly assume caregiving responsibilities. More than a third of today’s caregivers are employed full-time. As millennials take on more and more informal caregiving responsibilities, public and workplace policies must consider financial assistance or other support (e.g., family leave or allocated time off). 

More than half of millennial caregivers are minorities and are more likely than any other generation to balance caregiving with employment. Latinx millennials work more hours each week, on average, and spend more time providing care than young adults of other backgrounds. This is partly because Latino culture is built around families and they are, therefore, more likely to live in multigenerational households. 

With these challenges come opportunities to promote policies that enable active engagement and quality of life for millennial caregivers who are ethnoculturally diverse. Both the public and private sectors must collaborate to create culturally sensitive resources and implement innovative strategies affecting the millennial caregiving experience. While by no means exhaustive, the list below provides some ideas that could lead to a substantial impact.

Health Effects: Better training for informal caregivers to understand the signs of dementia (and specifically Alzheimer's disease) and the family caregiving experience. This can help identify and tackle stressors to reduce caregiver burnout and depression.

Financial Well-being: Permitting Medicare Advantage plans to offer a respite care benefit as a distinct and optional benefit. Medicare currently covers respite as a part of its hospice benefit, but the beneficiary qualifications are more appropriate for patients who are terminally ill. 

Employee Productivity: Supporting caregivers through flexible work policies, including offering paid or unpaid caregiving leave beyond the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This is a promising but still emerging trend that has been shown to boost an employer’s competitive advantage in  recruitment and retention. Currently, FMLA covers only 55 to 60% of workers due to limitations on eligibility. For instance, employees must have worked for their current employer for at least 12 months.

As the burden of dementia increases in the US, it may also be worth looking toward Japan - a country where 27% of the population is over 65 years old - for the "dos and don'ts" of how to create effective public policies and social space for those affected and their caregivers.