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Twitter Chat: Helping millennials step into the role of family caregiver

A growing number of millennials are becoming caregivers to family members or loved ones, according to a recent study. Genworth Financial, a company that researches long-term care options, found that the average age of caregivers has dropped from 53 in 2010, to 47 in 2018.

The shift has to do in part with a restructuring of the American family, said Bruce A. Chernof, president and chief executive officer of The SCAN Foundation, a nonprofit that works to provide resources for aging adults.

“The ‘Leave it to Beaver’ kind of model of mom and dad and two kids is not really the way American demography necessarily looks today, even in younger populations,” Chernof said.

Baby boomers are on the verge of retiring, if they haven’t already, and Chernof said their caregiving needs are different from those of their parents. Baby boomers are more likely to be unmarried or without children than earlier generations and are more likely to be living alone as they age.

For younger Americans stepping into this role, balancing their loved ones’ needs with their own work, finances and child care can take a toll, the Genworth study found.

Jennifer Levin, who became her father’s caregiver at age 32, said she remembers feeling anxiety and worry, which as the study found, is not uncommon. The study reported that although 82 percent of all caregivers felt positive about providing care, over half felt high levels of stress. More than a third reported feelings of depression and resentment, having to do partly with being presented with unimaginable challenges and care logistics.

How can these younger Americans balance the stress and responsibility? The PBS NewsHour will explore that and more in our next edition of #NewsHourChats on Twitter Jan. 31 at 2 p.m. EST. Jennifer Levin (@ClassicLevin), previous caregiver and creator of the Facebook support group Caregiver Collective, as well as Gretchen E. Alkema, (@Dr_Gretch), vice president of Policy and Communications for the SCAN foundation, will join the NewsHour to provide perspective.