Generation X – the generation sandwiched between Baby Boomers and Millennials – are beginning to face a difficult milestone en masse. Many are at the point in their lives when they’ve become the primary caregiver for their aging parents, many of whom are older Baby Boomers or Traditionalists. However, according to a new survey, the caregiver role is more multi-faceted than it’s ever been.
In the past, the term “caregiver” referred to a nurse or full-time aide that provided medical and occupational assistance in the last years of one’s life. But now, the role encompasses everything from health support to financial settlement and the physical cleanout of a loved one’s home.
“The caregiver’s role is expanding both physically and emotionally,” said Pete Shrock, Co-Founder and Chief People Officer for Legacy Navigator. More than 65% of the 1,000 people surveyed were not named official Executors of Estates, yet still were entrusted to make important estate decisions.
So why is Gen X unprepared for this task? The survey found that many Gen Xers are simply caught by surprise when the onus falls on them to take care of their aging parents. More than 75% still have children under age 18 living at home. So while they aren’t necessarily unaware of the fact that their parents will need assistance some day, they just aren’t expecting it to happen so soon.
It’s not only Millennials that are uncomfortable talking about money with their parents: Gen X is right there with them. The survey found that nearly two-thirds of Gen X have no idea how much money is in their parents’ bank account. But knowing how much money is there is only half the battle, since end-of-life care and estate management can often come at unexpectedly high costs.
For many Gen Xers, caregiving can feel like taking on a whole other job. Unlike Baby Boomers, many of whom have already made their way into retirement, the survey found that 68% of Gen X are still working a full time job. It will be interesting to see how employers react to this changing tide. While taking leave to care for a sick child is often allowed, as well as bereavement leave, taking time off to care for a parent is not as widespread.
Finances and medical care aside, the vast majority of those surveyed said that dealing with ‘the stuff,’ also known as house cleanout, was the most stressful part of the experience. “The process of cataloguing and sorting through all the items in the house can be completely overwhelming,” said Matt Paxton, Legacy Navigator Founder.
Only time will tell if this change in caregiving will be unique to Gen X, or if it’s only the beginning of a new trend that will affect Millennials, Gen Z, and all future generations.
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