Millennial Caregivers, Here’s My Advice to You

In my first semester of college I received the phone call. Mom had a hemorrhagic stroke, was in critical condition, and was being airlifted to Seattle for treatment. Before we hung up, the doctor asked how old I was. He sounded relieved when I told him that I was 18. He needed me to consent to an emergency brain surgery.

The possible complications sounded terrifying, but without the surgery my mom wouldn’t survive. I consented to the operation, not knowing that it would be the first of many decisions I would have to make on my mom’s behalf. That doctor was the first of dozens that I would speak to about my mom’s health.

The next few days were a blur. My only thoughts were about whether or not my mom would wake up from her medically induced coma. It wasn’t until much later that I realized I had just entered a new phase of my life, as a caregiver.

Fast forward 10 years, and I’m pretty close to the “typical” millennial caregiver. In the US, there are close to 10 million millennial caregivers. We are almost a quarter of all family caregivers. The typical millennial caregiver is 27 years old, cares for a 60 year old female relative (most likely their mom), and balances full-time employment with 20 hours a week or more of caregiving tasks.

At 27, I have been a caregiver for 10 years. Hopefully, I’ll be a caregiver for many years to come. This is what I wish I had known at 18.

How Can You be Taken Seriously as a Young Caregiver?

Lesson 1: Be Assertive, and You Will Be Taken Seriously

When I was an 18-year-old college freshman, meeting with nursing home administrators and talking to doctors about complicated medical issues was scary and unfamiliar. I was not confident enough to speak up when I noticed something wrong or had questions, and very few people were willing to take the time to explain things to me.

As I got older and gained confidence. I learned about nursing homes and the health care system. I began to express my concerns and opinions about my mom’s care – but people still didn’t always take me seriously.

When I earned my law degree people suddenly took notice of me because I finally knew how to be assertive and persistent.

My best advice for new young caregivers:

  • Ageism is difficult to overcome. Be confident and professional so people don’t underestimate you.
  • Do your own research. Nobody will have the time to teach you everything you need to know, and knowledge is comforting. For example, I researched dialysis when I learned that my mom would someday need it, so when the time came I knew what to expect and was better prepared to support her.
  • Take detailed notes during all meetings. I’ve used my notes to remind me of things to look up, people to contact, and issues to follow up on later.
  • Sometimes you will be a pest. Keep asking questions until you get answers, and follow up frequently if your concerns are ignored.

What Does the Future Look Like, Taking Care of Mom?

Lesson 2: Be Flexible About Your Vision of the Future

Millennials are known for delaying or skipping many milestones that were important to previous generations. We’re less likely to own a house, get married, or have children. While some may consider this a sign that millennials are slow to grow up, I think it shows that we are flexible and adaptive.

When I was finishing graduate school, I knew that I wanted to bring my mom home to live with me. She had lived in nursing homes for eight years. She was depressed and lonely, and I was constantly frustrated about the quality of care she was receiving.

Since I didn’t own a home and had no plans to buy one soon, I searched for apartments that were accessible for my mom and close to things she would need. I considered her needs alongside my own because my life was still very flexible.

When mom moved in with me, I was engaged, and the wedding was three months away. Most newlyweds don’t want to live with mom, but I was focused on what worked for me and my family. While some people didn’t understand my decision, my wife, mother, and I were confident in our choice to do things our own way and are happy with the life we’ve built.

I encourage other young caregivers to keep an open mind about your vision of the future. Make decisions based on your values and priorities rather than on what society expects your life to look like.

Do You Have to do What the Nursing Home Says?

Lesson 3: Always Challenge the Status Quo

When I decided to bring my mom home and be a hands-on millennial caregiver, I faced an uphill battle. Most people who live in facilities for years are expected to remain in them for the rest of their lives.

Nursing home administrators and staff told me repeatedly that my mom wasn’t healthy enough to live at home. They said her needs were too significant, and the best she could hope for was living in an adult foster home.

They were telling me to give up on my mother’s dreams.

While foster homes are the right option for some, I knew that my mom would be happiest at home with me. Instead of ignoring the naysayers, I focused on asking them why she couldn’t live at home.

Then, I researched until I found solutions to each of the problems they presented to me.

  • Problem: Mom needs a lot of specialized equipment.
  • Solution: I figured out how to have that equipment covered by her insurance.
  • Problem: Mom needs round-the-clock direct care.
  • Solution: I figured out how Medicaid, which was paying her nursing home bills, could pay for home care aids.

I listened to the concerns of the people who didn’t think my plan was possible, but I also knew that I needed to challenge the status quo. In the end, their doubts were the roadmap I used to bring my mom home.

If you’re a caregiver and people are telling you that what you’re asking is impossible, make sure you look closely at why they think that’s the case before you accept their opinions. Oftentimes you’ll find yourself in the position to advocate for something new or different.

You’re Taking Care of Mom. Who’s Taking Care of You?

Lesson 4: Build Your Self-Care Support System

Caregiving can be lonely. As a millennial caregiver, many of my peers have a lot more freedom, free time, and flexibility than I do.
They can take spontaneous weekend trips to Vegas. For me, travel requires more preparation, late nights out aren’t often an option, and weekends free are rare.

Fortunately, I’ve built a solid support system around me. My mom has two full-time home care aides, and I have a sister who lives nearby who is able to cover for me when I want to go out of town for a few days.

I love spending time with my mom, but after I a while I start to feel burned out, and I’m grateful for the people who make it possible for me to have some time off. The average millennial caregiver provides 20 hours of caregiving a week on top of a full-time job – finding people who can support you and offer respite is crucial.

What’s More Natural Than Caring?

Lesson 5: Caregiving is Challenging, Rewarding, and Natural

I don’t know many people my age who are caregivers for aging relatives, but many of my friends are now parents. I find that I relate a lot to my peers who have children – like me, their schedules aren’t as flexible as they used to be, they are on call 24/7, and they’re busy with the day to day care of another person.

Parents my age are just as busy as I am. Yet parenting is celebrated whereas caregiving has a lot of negative associations. I’ve come to see my role as a caregiver as similar to parenthood.

While it is time-consuming, exhausting, and not very glamorous, caregiving is a natural part of life, just as aging is a natural part of life.

Focusing on the challenging aspects of caregiving doesn’t serve me well. Instead, I focus on the opportunity it gives me to slow down, spend time with my family, and know my mom better. I appreciate this time in my life for what it is, and the day to day reality has plenty of joy to offer.


  1. National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute, Caregiving in the U.S., 2015
  2. 5 Facts about Millennial Households

Ashley Krollenbrock has been a caregiver for her mom for 10 years. She has her Masters of Public Health and Juris Doctorate with a concentration in Health Policy & Law. Ashley has done legal work for two state protection and advocacy agencies on behalf of people with disabilities. She is passionate about disability justice, aging justice, health equity, and aging in place. Ashley blogs at, and her goal is to empower families to keep their aging loved ones at home by sharing her story and practical knowledge. Ashley lives in Oregon with her wife and mom, and when she’s not writing or caregiving she loves to travel, garden, and hike with her dogs.

How to Remodel Your Home for Longevity & Design

Design a beautiful home and set yourself up for successful aging

Most people prefer to age in place.  If you have a beautiful home that you love, why leave it? Yet common features in many homes – steep stairs, “classic” plumbing fixtures, even hardwood floors – can actually make life less comfortable, or sometimes even dangerous, as we get older.

Fortunately, we now have many attractive home decor options that are also age-friendly. If you’re remodeling a home, incorporate one of these options to avoid any hassle, additional spending or accidents!

Age-Friendly Bathrooms

The combination of water and tile makes a bathroom an inherently hazardous place, even more so for someone with weakened balance, vision, or flexibility. Yet the sleek, modern aesthetic that is so popular now with polished and lacquered mink floors and minimalist surfaces can be extremely age-friendly. Sink fixtures with a single lever to control both temperature and flow are much easier to use for someone with arthritis than a traditional faucet with two knobs, one for hot and one for cold. Shower enclosures separate from the bathtub not only look more elegant, but also eliminate the need to step over a barrier to enter or exit. And modern toilets not only stand higher off the floor, but also use less water per flush.

Before jumping into a bathroom remodel, use these tips to enhance both aesthetic appeal and comfort:

  1. Select fixtures controlled with levers, not dials.
  2. Eliminate stairs or thresholds whenever possible, including shower enclosures (consider larger enclosures with entry at the side or the back to minimize splashing).
  3. Install a thermostatic fixture for your shower so that you can fix the water temperature at a comfortable level, rather than having to adjust hot and cold every time.
  4. Design a lovely bench for your shower enclosure that’s deep enough to sit on and install an extra hand-held showerhead with a long enough hose to reach your seat. It’s useful now as a place to store extra shampoo bottles, or as a seat if you tear your ACL on the ski slope, and will allow you to continue to shower comfortably even if you lose mobility later on.
  5. Use small tiles with wider grout lines for your bathroom floor, or consider slate flooring rather than smooth marble. A textured floor is less likely to be slippery – a plus for bathroom users of any age.
  6. Install a higher-than-average toilet for easy on and off now and in the future.

Age-Friendly Kitchens

After the bathroom, the kitchen is the room that requires the most modification to make it fully accessible. Lower-than-average countertops (to accommodate a wheelchair user) and an electric rather than gas cooktop (to avoid fire risk) may not be design decisions you want to make. Yet certain things that will keep your kitchen usable as you age also make it more convenient now, for instance:

  • Pull-out or swing-down shelves provide easy access to pots, dishes, or canned goods (they give children access, too!)
  • Side-by-side rather than over-under refrigerator/freezer units mean heavy items can be placed lower down to avoid having to reach up for access.
  • Countertops with open areas below allow people to sit rather than stand at them – including friends for a chat or kids doing homework, in addition to elders who find it physically challenging to stand unsupported.


Age-Friendly Lightings, Doorways and Security

One easy way to ensure a home is comfortable at any age is to make sure you have excellent lighting built in via wall sconces or ceiling fixtures. This helps with eyesight as you get older and minimizes the number of standing lamps, whose trailing power cords can create a fall risk. Don’t forget about lights in closets as well.

Consider designing 36-inch interior doorways rather than the standard 32-inch ones and make sure door hardware is levers rather than round knobs for ease of grip. If possible, eliminate thresholds. If you ever need a wheelchair or a walker, you’ll be able to move easily around your home.

If you have a multi-story home, do you have a place for an elevator? If you don’t need it now, you could make this space a coat closet on the lower floor and a storage closet on the upper floor, but have an easy modification should you need it later. You might also place your luxurious master suite on the ground floor of your new home, with children’s or guest rooms upstairs. Be sure that any stairs at your entryway or within the home have handrails to help those who are a little unsteady on their feet.

Home controls, intercom systems and built-in security systems hardwired to police or fire stations allow you access and control from anywhere in the home and keep you safe in an emergency. Today it’s a convenience to see who’s at your door from anywhere in the house; tomorrow it may be a necessity.

For ideas to inspire your accessible home design, check out Pinterest boards for Aging in Place.  Also, ask your contractor if he or she is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), a designation issued by the National Association of Home Builders.

Why Perfectionism Causes Caregiver Burnout

If you’re a caregiver and a perfectionist, you may be facing an uphill battle. Caregiving is a demanding job and it’s critical to accept that not everything will be perfect. As a caregiver, there are many things you cannot control and at the end of the day the most important thing to do is to let go of chasing perfection and simply aim to do your best. This piece will review the negative effects perfectionism has on caregiving.

The Right Mindset to Prevent Caregiver Burnout

Throughout our entire lives, people, maybe even the person you’re caring for, have told us that “nobody’s perfect.” That phrase applies to caregiving more than pretty much any other situation you’ll face throughout the course of your life. This is due to the nature of many of the illnesses you’re dealing with on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

It’s important to accept that there are many facets associated with caregiving that you can’t control and many that you cannot change. Learn from your mistakes, but also forgive yourself. If you ever practiced poor judgement, whether it was before your loved one got sick or while providing care, you need to let it go. Caregivers are under far more stress than the average person, and if you don’t acknowledge that, you’re far more likely to succumb to the causes of caregiver burnout.

Also, caregiver perfectionists tend to think nothing they do is good enough unless it’s perfect. If you’re that type of person, you need to lower your self-standards from “perfect” to “good enough,” because being good at caregiving is all anyone could possibly ask for. Caregivers who set too high of standards for themselves can suffer from low self-esteem, so when you do a good job, take time to acknowledge the difference you’re making and figuratively pat yourself on the back. In caregiving, victories can be few and far between, a fact that has nothing to do with the quality of the care. Even writing down your accomplishments as a caregiver is a healthy tactic. Don’t be afraid to accept a compliment every once in awhile!

Signs Your Perfectionism may be Leading to Caregiver Burnout

Perfectionists are more likely to be stressed, depressed, and are less probable to take breaks or pay attention to their physical health. Those are symptoms that are already associated with caregiver burnout, which is why perfectionism puts caregivers at risk.

Feeling constant fear of failure, constantly tinkering even after a task has been completed and comparing yourself to other caregivers are more signs of unhealthy behaviors exhibited by perfectionists.

Procrastination is another indicator that your attempt at being completely flawless is leading to caregiver burnout. Planning is extremely important when caregiving, but perfectionists tend to over prepare. This idealism can cause unnecessary delays in providing care or even preventing them from ever completing the task at hand.

Negative Effects of Perfectionism on Caregiving

Perfectionists inherently have a higher risk of depression and suicide so considering the additional stress of caregiving, caregivers who are perfectionists need to be extremely cognizant of the mental and physical effects of family caregiving.Those who set impossible standards for themselves are also found to have trouble receiving feedback, which is particularly worrisome in caregiving situations. It’s rare that the caregiver is a total expert on how to care for yourself while caring for an aging parent, so it’s extremely important that they take in advice from doctors or other healthcare professionals when it comes to providing care.

Also, in order to prevent caregiver burnout, caregivers must see a situation for what it is. A perfectionist tends to mentally bend a problem or scenario into how it ought to be, where a caregiver who sees a situation in realistic way is more likely to appropriate react in the moment. Perfectionists are also more likely to dwell on mistakes and be overly hard on themselves for being imperfect, rather than focusing on learning from their errors in order to avoid the same oversights in the future.

Doing Your Best is Enough

Caregiving is a job with many variables, unforeseen circumstances and often unavoidable outcomes. All a caregiver can do is give their best and that’s more than anyone could ask for. If you ever find yourself doubting the quality of you’re providing, just remember: you do enough, you care enough, you are enough.


How Dementia Caregivers can Help Overcome the Grief of a Loved One’s Decline

Grieving can be a highly personal and complicated experience when a loved one is faced with dementia.

Caring for a loved one with dementia, unfortunately, involves watching your loved one slowly decline. This process can be frustrating because, although you want to do everything you can to slow the progression of the disease or stop the disease from spreading, there is nothing you can do. Learn to be in the moment with your loved one and cherish each moment you have with him or her.

The journey of caring for someone with dementia is a difficult one, and the grieving process will be different for each person. Those who have lost someone to dementia will tell you that the grief is as disordered as the progression of the disease itself. Losing a person to a heart attack, for example, can result in loved ones experiencing the classic pattern of grief with well-studied stages:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

A caregiver who has lost someone to dementia may have already been through depression and acceptance while their loved one was alive, making grieving a more complicated process.

Grief counselors say the stages of grief form a structure of sorts that help us come to grips with the fact that we have lost someone we love. The journey through these stages helps us move forward and learn to live without them. Each person progresses through the stages differently and at different times, but all of that can change drastically after losing a loved one to dementia.

Dementia involves a continuous sense of loss

Losing a loved one to dementia is more complicated because it is a long, slow journey with multiple losses along the way. The cognitive losses associated with dementia often force caregivers to grieve losing pieces of their loved one on a daily basis.

When death finally comes, the caregiver may experience a sense of relief. However, the relief may also be accompanied by a deep sense of guilt.

These are just some of the reasons why the grief associated with losing a loved one to dementia is confusing and complicated. Here are some ways that dementia caregivers can overcome the grief associated with watching a loved one’s slow decline:

  • Don’t bury your feelings. Experience all your feelings fully, whether they are positive or negative. The more you feel your emotions, even the conflicting ones, the more you can process your grief.
  • Grieve in your own way. You may not feel grief immediately after your loved one dies. It may hit you a week, a month or a year later. Others will be overcome with grief immediately. Each person’s grieving process is normal. How long you spent with your loved one, the level to which you were intimately involved in his or her care and your relationship will all impact how you grieve.
  • Don’t hesitate to talk to someone about your grief. There are many resources available to those who are walking the journey through grief, including counselors, therapists, clergy, friends and family members.
  • Avoid becoming isolated. As horrible as you may feel, reach out to friends and spend time with them. Feel the joy of getting together with loved ones again. Being a caregiver may have prevented you from doing many of the things you love and now is the time to become involved in activities and friendships again.
  • Find a local support group. Talking with others who have experienced the same loss can be of great help. You may be able to find an Alzheimer’s support group near you.1
  • Be good to yourself. You have been through a traumatic experience. Many people may not understand. Take care of yourself and give yourself time to get back to a normal life that is not full of caregiving duties. Accept that you may feel good one day and horrible the next. Grieving is a long process and you will need to be patient and take care of yourself.

Caring for someone with dementia is difficult and so is grieving for them. Although it is a cliche, the best strategy to follow is taking one day at a time. Be good to yourself, remember the happy moments you had with your loved one and know that grief will subside with time.

1: Alzheimers and Dementia Support Group

6 Steps to Post-Hospitalization Recovery

One of the leading causes of hospital readmissions is the lack of adequate support following a hospital discharge. To help make a patient’s transition home smooth and successful, Home Care Assistance is committed to educating seniors and their loved ones about post-hospitalization care through ourHospital to Home Care program, a comprehensive set of resources for families managing the sometimes difficult transition home after hospitalization.

The first 72 hours home are critical for post-hospitalization patients. Patients are fatigued and family members are often confused and helpless. In addition to a comprehensive discharge plan, a caregiver can help manage the transition home and help you on the path towards a successful recovery.

Remember that recovery is a gradual process and can take anywhere from a few weeks to months. Below are 6 steps to a successful recovery:

  1. Dependence. When you first arrive home, your primary goal should be to rest and recover. A caregiver can support your recovery by handling household tasks such as meal preparation, running errands and relieving unnecessary stress so that you can focus on recommended therapy activities, diet and relaxation. Don’t be concerned if you need more help than you expected.
  2. Mild independence. As you start to gain strength, identify tasks that you can now manage independently, such as eating or walking down the stairs, and slowly wean yourself off of care in those areas. Never compromise your safety; ask your caregiver to step in if you feel uncomfortable.
  3. Supervised independence. As you continue gaining strength, your caregiver’s primary role will be supervision rather than direct physical assistance. Try to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) – bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, walking – independently.
  4. Supported independence. Once comfortable with ADLs, try incorporating chores or errands into your routine, such as a trip to the grocery store accompanied by your caregiver or preparing a meal together. Though they may seem small, these incremental steps are important milestones in your recovery.
  5. Semi-supported independence. Try taking a hold of day-to-day tasks and resume your pre-hospitalization routine. Although your caregiver is there to help, try not to take advantage of that assistance unless you really need it.
  6. Full independence. When you feel that you can safely return to your regular activities without your caregiver’s support, you may consider reducing care. Remember that full independence is a long-term goal and should not be prioritized over safety.

Home Care Assistance hopes to help make the transition from hospital to home smooth for you or a loved one by offering the knowledge required to navigate the discharge process and post-hospitalization care with ease. For a comprehensive overview of the challenges and resources associated with the transition home from the hospital, the hospital discharge process, post-hospitalization care and more, or purchase a copy of our book, From Hospital to Home Care: A Step by Step Guide to Providing Care to Patients Post Hospitalization, on

7 Habits of Highly Effective Caregivers

As the number of people over the age of 80 continues to grow more quickly than the number of people born, there is an increasing need for long-term care options. Many of us are finding ourselves in a position where we will either need to be a family caregiver or hire a professional caregiver. As someone who has dedicated her career to the care of seniors, I am aware of the qualities we can develop in ourselves as family caregivers or look for in professional caregivers to ensure our loved ones are cared for with the dignity and compassion he or she deserves. Here are 7 habits of highly effective caregivers:

  1. Be proactive, not reactive. Effective caregivers must know and get along with his or her client. Be weary of any home care agency that doesn’t ask for a client’s biography as it can provide an understanding of the personality, values and roles of the person for which he or she will be caring.
  2. Have a care plan. Begin with the end in mind and know the client’s ultimate care goals. If you are a caregiver, or especially if you plan on hiring a caregiver, it is imperative to have a care plan in place before the start of care. A good care plan outlines not only activities of daily living (ADLs) such as medication reminders, bathing or cooking, but also large-picture goals. Focus on possibilities as opposed to limitations and involve the person receiving care in the discussion.
  3. Put first things first. Once you have a care plan, prioritize goals. Remember that creating purpose and joy for our clients or loved ones is the ultimate goal, but there is no way to achieve it if the much more basic needs are not being met.
  4. Think win-win. As a caregiver, there are no shortcuts in providing quality care. Spending 5 to save 20 is a common phrase we use to demonstrate the importance of the caregiving relationship. For example, instead of pushing a loved one to the dining table in a wheelchair, allow your loved one to push it himself or herself, if able. Although this may take longer, it helps maintain strength, preserve dignity and promote conversation instead of a potential argument.
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Having someone listen to and understand us does not lessen with age. As a caregiver, understanding your clients’ unique needs and preferences is the best and only way to create trust and provide effective care. Giving time and attention is the greatest way to show someone not only that you care, but also that they matter.
  6. Synergize and collaborate. Caregivers and loved ones or clients should share their care experiences – It may be common to share problems, but share successes too! By opening communication, caregivers can better cater to the individual’s needs and preferences and have more fun along the way!
  7. Sharpen the saw. Being a caregiver can be stressful. That’s why it’s important to rememberif you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of someone else. That can be hard to embrace, so I invite you to say it over and over. An effective caregiver is one that understands that they are a human with needs and limits, just like the person they are caring for. You wouldn’t expect a dull saw to cut down a tree effectively, and you can’t expect yourself to be effective as a caregiver if you don’t take the time you need to stay sharp.