The growing field of elder law is still a mystery to much of the general public and even the legal community. An elder law attorney may rely on various laws—from the Texas Property Code to the Texas Administrative Code—to assist his or her client. The elder law attorney may represent the client in exploitation and neglect cases, in long-term care Medicaid planning, in gift and tax planning, and whatever else suits the needs of the client in the office. However, besides helping the elderly client or client with a disability, the elder law attorney is often pulled into the middle of a family crisis where assistance is needed on multiple fronts. For many elder law attorneys, presentations at senior centers or with preparing-to-retire business owners are primary referral sources and good clientele. However, a growing number of individuals aged approximately 23 to 38 (millennial generation according to Pew Research Center) may be worth the elder law attorney’s second look.
According to a recent Genworth study, in less than a decade since 2010, the average age of caregivers has fallen to 47. Further, the average age of the recipient of care has dropped to 66 in 2018 from 75 in 2010. This trend manifests itself in a myriad of social media groups such as the Caregiver Space on Twitter and Caregivers of Parkinson’s Disease Support Group on Facebook. There are also countless blogs such as lotsahelpinghands.com and themotivatedmillennial.com. Many of these resources were created by the generation who grew up with the internet and so, it is no surprise to see this as the avenue in which these individuals are sharing information in the face of what feels like insurmountable challenges.
I have seen a client whose ill mother moved in with her upon her return home from college graduation. And it does not stop with mom and dad. I have also helped a client, just turned 40, who was left to care for a brother with traumatic brain injury while planning her own wedding. These individuals are trying to navigate a multitude of information and options, and find a balance in their lives. A quick scroll through these internet sites and resources leads to questions posted by readers and members such as, “Anyone else caring for their brother with ALS?” or “Since my mother died, my 95 year old grandmother has moved in. Where do I find a chair lift?” The collateral issues these individuals face are also those which elder law attorneys are equipped to assist with or offer up a helpful referral source in the alternative.
Besides advising your millennial how best to help mom and dad, they may also be a member of or preparing to be a member of the “sandwich generation.” According to the Pew Research Center, 71% of the “sandwich generation” are aged 41-59 and nearly 20% are younger than age 40 or the millennial generation (the remaining roughly 9% is over age 60). These individuals are caring for an aging loved one in addition to caring for their young children. This is a particular client who is looking to help themselves as well as those they are caring for. It takes a skilled elder law attorney with knowledge of trust and estate planning, guardianships, tax planning, and long-term care resources to provide this multi-generational planning. Building a solid attorney-client relationship now often leads to the opportunity for the elder law attorney to plan for the caregiver’s own family affairs as they transition to the next phase of life. For many millennials and “sandwich generation” members, that phase is looking more and more like a dual caregiver role.
With a generation accustomed to information at their fingertips and faced with caregiving challenges, a unique prospect exists for the elder law attorney. As the Y2K generation prepares and continues to step up and take on the caregiver role, the elder law attorney will likely become more and more prevalent. If you or your clients face such challenges, it would be prudent to visit an elder law attorney to ensure accurate information and competent counsel is being received.