Commentary: Millennial caregiver overwhelmed with family obligations
Dear Carol: I'm not yet 30 and struggling with family caregiving. I work an entry-level job that barely pays my rent and student loan payment. I love my mom and grandma, but I hadn't expected this responsibility so soon. Mom was taking care of Grandma, who's had dementia for years, but then Mom had a stroke. I'm an only child so there are no siblings to help. My dad's not involved with us. Grandma's in a nursing home. According to the doctors, Mom's condition isn't expected to improve a whole lot from where she is now, which means she will continue to need a wheelchair. Her speech is slurred and her memory is poor. She owns a small house, but I don't see her going back to her former life. I'd like to move her into the nursing home where Grandma lives, but I don't even know where to start to make this happen. What resources are there for people like me? — BV
Dear BV: This responsibility must seem overwhelming to you at an age where you should be able to concentrate on building your own future. I wouldn't want this for my kids, and I think that few parents would. Yet, what many people find surprising is that millions of millennials have been hit with similar responsibilities and they, like you, are stepping up, which makes their own futures more vulnerable.
Obviously, you need help, but you know that. The social worker at your grandma's nursing home would be a good person to talk to for initial advice if you feel comfortable doing that.
Your next step is to contact your local Area Agency on Aging. You can find them by going to the website www.n4a.org. Additionally, by accessing www.aging.gov and clicking on "Resources Near You," you will be led to your local option for that organization as well as many more resources. Unfortunately, some states offer far better resources and support for caregivers than others, but at least it's a starting point. Searching The National Council on Aging (NCOA) website is also a good idea. People at these agencies should be able to help you map out a plan.
I'd strongly suggest that you seek personal support, as well. Most communities or counties offer free or sliding-scale counseling. You don't seem to have any healthy older adults in your corner, so this person could help you balance your family obligations with your own welfare.
I commend you for all that you are doing and hope that you can find the resources necessary to place your mom in care, preferably in the same facility as your grandma. You need to allow yourself to take time for building your own life while you are still assisting with your loved ones' care. That will mean leaving more care to the paid professionals, but your visits and advocacy will be a huge contribution so no guilt is allowed, agreed? You need to do this for your family as well as yourself.