Millennials get a pretty bad rap. In some unfair sweeping generalizations, they have been called “entitled,” “lazy,” and even “narcissistic.” If you happen to agree with these criticisms, it may be time for a little empathy, as this generation is the newest one to start reaching that age of caring for their elderly parents.
Planning and acting on behalf of unwell family members is never easy, but it deserves to be understood. How exactly is this generation planning to care for their aging mothers and fathers? What “final straws” cause them to jump into action; how are they working with their partners; and how are millennial men and women caring differently? We uncovered all of this and more by surveying 991 millennials, about half of whom were already actively taking care of their parents, while the others were in the planning phases. Read on to uncover the most current millennial approach to parental care.
A third of millennials said they have already started financially planning for the care of their aging or ailing parents. On average, however, they had only saved about $3,100 for the job which is notoriously much more expensive than that. This financial gap between savings and reality may help to explain why the expectations of millennials in the planning stage were so far off from the situations of the millennials in the caring stage. That said, a third of the planners were also aware that they would likely want an additional job to financially care for their parents when the time did come.
More than 1 in 10 –or 13.7% –of millennials who had not yet begun to take care of their parents thought they would send their moms and dads to an assisted living facility when the time came. In reality, however, only 1.5% actually did so. This was likely due to financial inadequacy, as 62.7% ultimately chose a far cheaper option: moving back in with their parents. Many who had wanted their parents to move in with them felt that their homes simply weren’t big enough for one or two new roommates, so they packed their own bags.
Guilt was the biggest motivating force for millennials planning to take care of their parents down the road. When asked about the reasons they felt responsible for such care, 65.8% of planning-stage millennials said they would feel guilty if they didn’t, and 53% said they simply wanted to do it. Once in the planning stage, many respondents also echoed a certain lack of choice: 29.9% said the care fell to them as the only child, and another 19.4% said it was because they were the eldest child.
Millennials, who are currently between the ages of 24 and 39, started to take care of their parents at an average age of 23. Though this may seem young, their children will likely be even younger when the responsibility eventually falls to them, as millennials are waiting much longer than other generations to procreate. Nevertheless, 54% of the millennials we surveyed who did have children still expected their offspring to care for them one day.
Differences between men and women also began to surface at this point in the study. Women were more than twice as likely to report being “extremely stressed” about taking care of their parents. Continue scrolling to see the other divergences between male and female parental care.
In both previous and current generations, caregiving falls more often to daughters and sisters than it does sons and brothers. Women also clock in more hours of care when they are the ones on the job. And what our survey uncovered was that the ways in which they spent this time of care were often skewed toward stereotypical gender roles, as well.
Men were most likely to spend quality time each week with their elderly parents as a form of care. They also often reported picking up their medication (56.1%) and taking them shopping (48.5%). Women, on the other hand, were more often burdened with additional chores like cleaning (46.3%), doing laundry (31.3%), and cooking (46.3%), which may have barred them from spending more quality time with their mothers and fathers.
Caretakers, both male and female, sprang to action most often when their parents showed general signs of aging. This was in stark contrast to those millennials who had not yet begun to care for their parents and were still in the planning stage. Inexperience led this group to believe that there would be something more jarring, like memory loss (68.2%) or disability (65.5%), that sparked the need for care. In reality, however, it’s simply the subtle forms of getting older that cause parents to start leaning on their children in old age.
In addition to the financial and emotional stress of needing to care for a parent who can no longer care for themselves, many respondents reported arguing with their significant others in the process. Forty-four percent of those who were already caring for their parents said it caused at least one fight, and 17% of those in the planning stages were arguing, as well.
As with most disagreements, honest and open communication is a useful tool not to be underestimated, but 39.6% of people planning to care for their parents hadn’t even discussed these plans with their partner. All of that said, 53.6% of millennials already caring for their parents reported their significant others as ultimately being very supportive in the process.
Like the generations that came before them, millennials are struggling with the care of their aging but beloved family members. Data showcased their willingness and generosity, but it also showed their naivety and inexperience. Ultimately, supportive partners, open communication, and smart financial planning can all help during these difficult times.
Even as an only or eldest child, however, you are not in this alone. CaringAdvisor.com is here for you to lean on. With experienced and expert advice on finding care for your loved ones, CaringAdvisor can help you find answers to some of life’s toughest but most common questions.
To collect the data shown above, we conducted a survey of 991 respondents. To qualify for this survey, respondents were required to be millennials, born between 1981 and 1997, who are planning to take care of or already taking care of their parents. Of the respondents, 857 were planning to take care of their parents, and 134 were already caring for their parents. Respondents were asked if they were parents. 498 respondents reported having children, and 493 reported being childless. The respondent pool was 56.9% female, 42.7% male, and less than 1% identified as nonbinary. The data were calculated to exclude outliers. We did this by finding initial averages and standard deviations for the data. Then, the standard deviation was multiplied by two and added to the initial average. Any data point above the calculated number was then excluded from the data.
Because the survey relies on self-reporting, issues such as telescoping and exaggeration can influence responses. An attention-check question was included in the survey to help ensure respondents did not answer randomly.
As data revealed, naiveté causes more harm than good when it comes to parental care. Feel free to share the knowledge behind this article, but be sure its use is noncommercial and that you link back to this page as your source.