Caring for a Loved One Brings New Responsibilities to Millennials

~ By Eileen Doherty, MS ~

DENVER, CO – According to a 2017 poll by the Associated Press NORC, 40% of Americans believe that Medicare will pay for long term care. Nothing could be further from the truth. While Medicare pays for intermittent home health care and short-term skilled care in a nursing home, as well as hospice care, unpaid family members are the primary source of care.

The National Caregiver Alliance reports that 49% of individuals in the United States provide care for older adults. More astounding is that 25% of individuals aged 18-34 care for an aging parent according to “Business of Aging – Viceland” (2017), a program dedicated to meeting the needs of millennials.

But who is a caregiver? Caregivers might provide simple assistance such as rides to the doctor, grocery shopping, regular cleaning, or yardwork; but they may also be paying bills, managing medications, helping with continence issues, and taking care of a bed-bound parent. More families are paying cash for services or even leaving the workplace.

In Colorado, the Alzhiemer’s Association reports in 2015 there were 239,000 caregivers providing 272 million hours of unpaid care for a total savings to the state of more than $3 billion for people suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. However, these savings in services provided by Colorado caregivers resulted in $135 million in health care costs to themselves.

While the benefits of unpaid caregivers providing care substantially outweighs the additional costs to the Colorado health care system, caregivers are often unaware of resources that may be available to help with care and services. Caregivers are often unaware of resources or feel unable to use them due to cost or other barriers.

Shopping for services can be even more overwhelming. Many older adults have a limited nest egg they saved for their retirement years, making lack of money a major barrier to seeking outside help. Not knowing where to go and who to trust is also a major barrier.

Sometimes families are reluctant to admit they need more help often resulting in guilt and maybe even shame. We hear “my mother took care of six children; we have to take care of her”. The fallacy in that argument is that “mom” was younger, a full-time “mom”, and the children were becoming more independent every day. When adult children care for “mom”, she becomes more dependent, needing more and more care.

According to the 2017 Associated Press-NORC poll, 77% of Americans want to receive care in their own home, 11% in a senior community, 4% in a friend’s home and 4% in a nursing home. Americans also want family to take care of them. More than half of men prefer having a spouse provide care; while women prefer to have their children provide care.

Millennials like order. While Colorado has almost 700 agencies that provide home care meeting the preferences of most seniors, there are more than 600 licensed assisted living facilities and more than 250 nursing homes, according to the 2017 edition of the Colorado Senior Resource Guidebook contributing to the confusion in decision making.

The Guidebook outlines the eligibility requirements for Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans Benefits. The Guidebook is a tool to do comparison shopping for housing options such as assisted living, nursing homes, retirement communities, and low-to-moderate income housing as well as home care options including home care, adult day programs, and hospice care.

Lastly, the Guidebook helps consumers learn about the advance care planning. Older adults are often reluctant to complete powers of attorney and to share information about their wishes about desired care. Completing these documents before a crises is beneficial making it easier for family to provide care.

For your free copy of the Colorado Senior Resource Guidebook, visit your local library. Copies are also available at many senior fairs or by sending $10 to cover shipping and handling to CGS, 1330 Leyden St, #148, Denver CO 80220. You can also order a copy at www.senioranswers.org. For more information or a personal consultation on issues facing you as a caregiver, call 303-333-3482.

Eileen Doherty

Eileen Doherty

Eileen Doherty, MS is the Executive Director of the Colorado Gerontological Society. Her areas of expertise include management and administration of nonprofit organizations, education and training on issues related to older adults, advocacy and policy development on senior issues, and clinical practice in working with seniors and families to manage their lives in the later years. She has been the Director of the Society since 1982. She teaches Nonprofit Management for Fort Hays State University.