By Barb Furst, MA, LICDC, CEAP, LSW, Account Manager, AllOne Health
When we think of today’s caregiver, some characteristics come to mind – a middle-aged female caring for an elderly parent or parent-in-law. We don’t normally expect the caregiver to be a young adult student, caring for an ill, aging, or disabled family member or friend.
As with other aspects of the post-COVID world, a new generation of caregivers has come onto the scene. According to a two-study report by Harvard/UHF/VNS and NAC/AARP, young adults between 18 and 25 years old represent around 18% of the total number of adult caregivers. Further studies show that the number may be underreported.
Over half of these young caregivers are male, and the average age is 21. All races were represented in these studies. Most young adults are caring for a female relative, most often a grandmother.
Studies also show that young adult caregivers tend to neglect self-care, which is understandable, considering how busy they are. They are also at the height of their physical well-being and may not place a high priority on keeping themselves well. Or they may deny their own challenges.
Recognizing Caregiver Stress
Prolonged stress can eventually become disabling. To reduce the impact on caregivers, it’s important to recognize early warning signs, which can include:
- Increased irritability and fatigue
- Depressed mood
- Easily argumentative
- Inability to relax
- Constant feeling of being under pressure or in demand
- Decrease in patience and understanding
- Resentment over lack of time for self, family, or friends
- Lack of interest in or time to socialize or engage in recreational activities
- Changes in concentration and short-term memory
Various unmet needs also add to caregivers’ stress, including obtaining medical assistance and resources, lack of support, especially from their age group, help with making end-of-life decisions, difficulty with marriage or dating partners, and job problems.
However, caregiving also has its benefits, including opportunities for social interaction, building lasting memories, learning compassion for others, and developing self-respect and pride in caring for a loved one.
To help young caregivers, it’s important to make them aware of their Student Assistance Program, which has information, resources, and referrals to help manage many common challenges related to caregiving, including medical advocacy, financial and legal consultations, eldercare, and more.
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