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A THIRD of Americans under 40 care for older relatives


Most young adults haven’t given much thought to their own needs as they get older, but a significant number are already providing long-term care for older loved ones, a new poll reveals. 

A third of American adults under age 40 have already provided care for an older relative or friend, and another third expect to be called upon to do so within the next five years.

While those who have caregiving experience put in fewer hours than their older counterparts, they’re more likely to feel stressed out by the experience, the study found.

The study of around 2,000 people, conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in English and Spanish, suggests this could well by the new reality for Americans as the population ages and healthcare system a stretched thin of resources. 

A son holds his mother's hand at her nursing home in Michigan. He is one of the many people under 40 who are providing care, or have provided care, for older relatives

A son holds his mother’s hand at her nursing home in Michigan. He is one of the many people under 40 who are providing care, or have provided care, for older relatives

According to the survey, 17 percent of young adults are currently providing long-term care to an older loved one, and another 19 percent have done so in the past.

Three-quarters of younger caregivers spend less than 10 hours a week providing care, compared to most caregivers over age 40 who provide at least 10 hours of unpaid care a week.

But despite putting in fewer hours of unpaid work, younger caregivers are more likely than older caregivers to say their care responsibilities are at least moderately stressful, 80 percent to 67 percent.

At the same time, most caregivers – younger and older – say they’re getting most or all of the support they need, with young caregivers especially likely to say they receive that support from family members.

Younger caregivers are also more likely than older ones to rely at least in part on social media for the support they need, 45 percent to 25 percent.

In addition to the 35 percent who already have experience providing care, another 34 percent of adults under 40 expect to become caregivers at some point in the next five years.

Younger prospective caregivers are more likely than those age 40 and older to say they feel unprepared to take on that role, 53 percent to 37 percent. 

Still, most say they expect to share caregiving responsibilities rather than take them on alone.

Among all young adults, less than half say they’ve done any planning for the potential care of an older relative.

Most young adults have little confidence that government safety-net programs will be there for them as they get older, and they’re not too sure about their own financial situation, either.

Only 16 percent of younger adults are very confident that they’ll have the financial resources to deal with their own care needs when they get older.

At the same time, only about one in 10 expect Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid to provide at least the same level of benefits when they need them, and majorities say they have little to no confidence in that being the case.

Although about seven in 10 Americans will need some type of long-term care as they get older, just 22 percent of young adults think it’s very likely that they’ll need those types of services themselves someday. 

And those under age 40 are more likely than older adults to underestimate the percentage of Americans age 65 and older who will need care, 64 percent to 54 percent.

The long-term care poll was conducted March 13 to April 5 by NORC, with funding from the SCAN Foundation.

It involved interviews in English and Spanish with 1,945 adults, including 423 adults under 40 and 1,522 adults age 40 and older. Interviews were conducted online or by phone among members of NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the US population.

The margin of error for all adults is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points, and the margin of error for adults under 40 is plus or minus 6.7 percentage points.



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