This week the topic of ‘poopy’ diapers happened to come up in the most unlikely of places. Stay with me on this one and let me explain.
For the past few days I have been traveling for ‘work.’ While taking part in a professional development exercise, one younger - (millennial) colleague shared a funny story of stepping right in the middle of a dirty baby diaper that somehow had ended up on the floor. (YUCK!)
As I listened to the story, I couldn’t help but think to myself ‘how ironic,’ given the story I wanted to share with you this week.
Most of us wouldn’t think twice about someone between the ages of 25-40 (that’s the millennial demo) changing diapers, right?
After all, that is a prime age window for parents, so dealing in diapers is just part of the reality.
But what about that same age demo who may be changing diapers and/or cleaning up from ‘accidents’ involving a parent, grandparent or some other elder or physically challenged relative?
We’ve talked about the staggering numbers of caregivers in the United States in previous Bulletin updates. We’ve touched on how a growing number of those caregivers are younger people.
The AARP Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 report outlines more details about millennials serving in the role of caregiver.
Many are stepping up to the plate in ways that go above and beyond. And it’s happening in the prime of their lives and careers.
So what does this reality look like for a thirty-something caregiver?
How might it change their daily patterns?
Alter views on what is important in life?
To get some of that perspective, I talked with a young woman who unexpectedly took on the role.
Melissa is 34, single but in a serious relationship, and has a successful career in software development. She has also spent much of this past year helping to care for both of her elderly grandparents. Her grandfather is in his 90’s; her grandmother in her late 80’s and in poor health.
Here’s how it happened
At the end of March, Melissa’s grandfather was in a car accident. He suffered minor injuries and has managed to come back strong (at 90-something)!
But that emergency forced Melissa to upend her life and career, move in with her relatives and spring into action providing support and care.
She took time from her day to talk with me and says the last nine months have changed her outlook on what it means to age and what we should ALL be doing to plan for the future.
Q: So, you are in the prime of your life and career and then BAM, all of this happens and you have to step in… what was going through your mind?
A: Well, we had already been talking about visiting and maybe staying with them for a few months. But then everything was accelerated because of the accident.
It was pretty scary, because my grandfather, even at his age, is very independent. He could pretty much take care of himself. But when I got here he was in the hospital. He couldn’t move; he couldn’t do anything. Two nurses had to lift him, put pillows under him; make sure he wasn’t developing bed sores because he couldn’t move himself.
He had his own concerns about the accident and his health, wondering if he was going to be okay. It was a real shock and pretty scary. There were a lot of unknowns.
Q: What were some of the first realizations you had once you started tackling care for your grandparents?
A: Because my grandfather is so strong and because he had been able to take care of so much, when he wasn’t available things were falling apart. He couldn’t handle payroll and scheduling and time sheets [for the caregivers].
All of the things for the house being paid, the lawn care and just keeping the household running were falling apart. In some cases my grandfather was paying things by check, and he was the only one who knew the information.
And my grandmother isn’t aware of what needs to be taken care of at this point. So I was scrambling to have to figure everything out!
I had to figure out all of the things we should have.. like things I had never considered.
All of these are checkpoints that are so important. I mean, I don’t have these things, I don’t take medications! So those were things that were completely outside of what I was considering. Getting that checklist of knowing what things to get in order made such a difference.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your experience working alongside the in-home caregivers?
A: The independent care staff working with us; well, there were gaps of time when there was no one here to help with my grandmother. There were people who would just quit or just wouldn’t show up. They would leave and never come back or not show up for a shift.
Melissa describes that aspect of learning about caregiving as ‘frustrating.’ She shared that many times she was angry at caregivers who did not fully and compassionately tend to her grandmother’s needs.
However, for other caregivers who have been loving and attentive to her grandmother and grandfather, she feels much differently.
“I am so thankful for the caregivers. They provide a tremendous amount of support and I am so grateful for them.”
There is a lot more great information Melissa was willing to share. Coming up: Sunday, December 12, 2021: Part II of our chat with Melissa about the realities of millennial caregiving - don't miss it!
Learn how this experience has given her a new perspective on ways to live her own life and some *must read* suggestions she has for others...
Until next time,
*Header Image Courtesy: Getty Images/Drazen_