What Your Parents Don’t Know Can Eventually Hurt You


A man and woman laying in bed smiling for the camera.

I’m very encouraged by millennials and their drive to make the world a better place.

~ John Mackey

 

Aging in Place

As Millennials dip their toes into middle age, their parents (boomers) are racing toward retirement and beyond. Which translates into eventual caregiving roles that aren’t far off. But trouble could be brewing for Millennials who will be caring for aging parents.

Boomers are turning 65 at a rate of 10, 000 a day and will for the next decade–further, retirees of 65 can now expect to live 20 more years, on average, according to Social Security projections. What is even more ominous, contrary to popular belief, fewer than half of working-age Americans have any retirement savings, according to Census data for 2020. In the 55- to 64-year-old boomer age group, only 58 percent of Americans own retirement accounts. Many boomers have depleted retirementsaving to support adult children later in life, which contributes to the dependency needs of aging parents in the future.

What this means for many Millennials is they will become “informal caregivers” (unpaid), and waiting until a crisis to address essential important issues for parents will not be pleasant for anyone. Caring for aging parents is a role familiar to boomers, but they are unfamiliar in the role of care receiver. And this is all new to millennials who will most likely be called upon for a longer period to provide care.

Here are some Hacks to do *1-by-1, specific to millennials that can help them in this caregiving journey:

Understand their unique needs: Recognize that your parent’s needs may differ from their parents and your own for that matter. Take the time to learn about common age-related health issues and challenges they might face.

Hack: Have your parents ask their healthcare providers for HIPAA disclosure forms to name you as a trusted person who can receive their medical records. Once that form is on file, you should be able to ask for your parents’ records if you are at the office with them.

Initiate open conversations: Engage in honest and compassionate conversations with your parents about their wishes, preferences, and any concerns they might have regarding their care as they age.

Hack: Ask them if they would consider doing a video interview with you about these topics–make it fun. This way you will have a video record of their wishes.

Educate yourself about available resources: Familiarize yourself with local community resources, support groups, and government programs that can provide assistance and services for aging parents.

Hack: A good place is your Local Area Agency on Aging / AARP has actionable resources / my website aginginplace.com Resources Page is useful.

Organize important documents: Ensure that all essential legal and financial documents, such as wills, medical directives, and insurance policies, are in order and accessible when needed.

Hack: Set up a Power of Attorney / this can be done on Legal Zoom or freewill.com (nonaffiliates)

Create a care plan: Collaborate with your parents and other family members to develop a comprehensive care plan that addresses their medical, emotional, and social needs.

Hack: Hire a Geriatric Care Manager, a professional who can do all the heavy lifting for you.

Establish a support network: Don’t hesitate to reach out to friends, family members, and support groups for advice, encouragement, and respite when needed.

Hack: Talk with neighbors, their church, clubs, and other family members. Delegate, delegate, delegate, call on family members to help. Play to each person’s strengths; if someone has a strong back help with chores, if another is good with money have them look in on finances, if someone lives minutes away have them drop over weekly, tech skills, that person can set up smart home technologies. Let others step up to help–don’t deny them, even if it takes longer and you think you can do it better.

Encourage independence: Whenever possible, support your parents’ independence and autonomy, allowing them to maintain a sense of control over their lives. This includes encouraging functional aging, which means not just extending life, but extending health too. Encourage their Joining a gym, taking yoga classes at the community center, getting an e-bike, or help them adopt a shelter pet. Owning a pet gets them out walking several times a day, provides a purpose, and trips to the dog park can facilitate social interaction and new friends!

Hack: Learn Home Modification Basics/Aging-in-Place Modifications

Bathroom

Grab Bars and Tub Bars

Shower Bench or Chairs

Raised Toilet Seats

Non-Slip Flooring

Bedroom

Remote Lighting (motion sensor)

PERS system monitoring

Clear Pathways

Lighted path to Bathroom

Bedrails if needed

Kitchen

Non-slip Flooring

Cabinet pulls

Drop Down Cabinets

Extra Lighting -Task-Toe kick

Living Areas

Clear Pathways

Non-Slip Floors

No Mats (tack down and less than ¼ inch if necessary)

Entrance Door Accessibility

Lever Handles

Non-Barrier Transitions

Door Widening 36-38″

Lighting Motion Sensor

Small Bench (packages)

Use Gerotech; Apps for medical/health, services/deliveries/rides, wearables monitor health tracking, Alexa assistive smart home tech, Simply Safe home monitoring, and Medical Alert devices.

(It’s about healthy INTER-dependence)

Prioritize self-care: Caring for aging parents can be emotionally and physically demanding. Make time for self-care and seek help when necessary to prevent caregiver burnout.

Hack: Ask for help. Again, delegate. You will find caregiving is a mission creep, the care needs will increase as time goes by–you will be doing more than you ever anticipated. Take time away to cultivate your own uniqueness. Feed your soul on a regular basis. Celebrate victories no matter how small.

Be patient and understanding: Aging can bring about various challenges and changes in behavior. Practice patience and empathy when dealing with your parents’ emotional ups and downs.

Hack: Find others going through the caregiving journey and seek/give mutual support. There are 10 million millennial caregivers–you are not alone. Online resources are available: https://caregiversamerica.com/ 10 Things Millennial Caregivers Should Know

Prepare for transitions: Be ready to adapt and modify the care plan as your parents’ needs change over time. Keep communication lines open and be flexible in accommodating new circumstances.

Hack: Understand over time the bar will be lower, often with each visit. New “normals” will be established and that’s just part of the process. The strength that you never knew you possessed will be called upon time and time again–love will fuel your caregiving. You got this…

Remember, each caregiving situation is unique, so be ready to tailor your approach to suit your parents’ specific needs and preferences. The journey can be challenging, but with the right information, support, and love, you can provide the best possible care for your aging parents.

Employing these hacks can save time, money, and needless suffering–not to mention the opportunity cost to the Millennial caregiver who has only some much time to live, work/save, do childcare, and enjoy life.

Remember, you got this…1-by-1.

See

*Note: I purposefully did not make a 1-10 list to emphasize the importance of not prioritizing steps, these are all equally essential elements of a “systems approach” to informal caregiving accomplished one by one.

Patrick’s New Book: Women, Aging & Myths: 10 Steps to Loving Your Long Life

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