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More millennials are senior caretakers

November 20, 2018

Ana Lorann knows the value of patience and a flexible schedule.

Lorann, an event operations supervisor at the Rochester Art Center, turned 23 earlier in the month.

She’s been a caretaker for her father, Al, since she was 18.

Millennials like Lorann are a caretaking population that is frequently under-recognized, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Millennials (born between 1980 and 1995, ages 22-37) are now called upon as caregivers for aging parents.

More than 10 million people in their 20s and 30s are now caregivers in the U.S., according to AARP. They make up about a quarter of the caregiving force.

Many — around three-quarters — work at the same time.

Some of the millennials may also be raising their own children, resulting in a double responsibility to the older and younger generations.

Lorann works and also takes care of her father several days a week.

“Whenever I apply for a new job, I tell them that I absolutely have to be on call for my dad,” Lorann said.

When she began looking for resources, Lorann realized that millennial caretakers are more isolated than their older compatriots.

She found resources and other younger caretakers online.

Day by day

Growing up, Lorann knew her parents were older than those of many of her classmates. Lorann was adopted from Russia in 1997 by Candice and Al, her parents.

“I didn’t really think anything of it, because they’re my parents,” she said.

However, at the end of her junior year of high school, Al, now 67, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

“It just shocked him so much,” Lorann remembered. “He asked, ‘How long do I have to live?’”

Before the diagnosis, Lorann and her mother had noticed Al asking the same question a few times, but the news changed their plans.

“We knew this was probably going to be bad,” Lorann said. “I certainly didn’t want her to be alone and caregiving.”

Lorann’s parents live together, but with a full-time job as a dental hygienist at Mayo, Candice can’t take care of Al round the clock.

That’s where Lorann comes in.

She watches Al when her mother is out, and is responsible for transporting him places and setting up his “electronic needs” (like an iPad so he can continue to play word puzzles).

In a recent study by the Alzheimer’s Association, caretakers in the 22-37 age group were more likely than Gen X or Baby Boomers to see positive aspects of their new responsibility, including strengthened relationships with their family members.

“So much of being a caregiver is also being a daughter,” Lorann said. “I’m a daddy’s girl, I’ve always been a daddy’s girl. So hanging out with him doesn’t feel like a difference.”

She does notice the change, though, when they’re in public together and he wanders off, or during trance-like sessions at night.

“We drop things like work or household chores to be around him,” she said. “He’s the number-one priority in our family.”

Living in the moment

Caretaking has taught her patience, Lorann said — both with her father as they navigate the pitfalls of the disease, and in her own life.

Working in event supervision, Lorann sees a fair number of weddings. Occasionally, she considers “rushing” certain milestones, to ensure that her father will be there for, say, a father-daughter dance at her wedding.

But that’s a slippery slope, she said.

“You have to live in the moment,” Lorann said. “You can’t think that your dad is sick, otherwise you’re going to get engulfed in that. You have to think that your dad is here today.”

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