NJ to help family caregivers find resources
A new task force will identify and improve support services for caregivers in New Jersey.
"Caregivers throughout our state work long hours for often little to no compensation, supporting the elderly and those with disabilities, including mental illnesses," said Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who signed the law creating the task force while Gov. Phil Murphy was out of the country on vacation.
There are more than a million family caregivers in New Jersey who provide unpaid care worth an estimated $13 billion to their loved ones to help them remain at home.
Crystal McDonald, associate advocacy director at AARP New Jersey, said our population is expected to double for people aged 65+ in the next 30 years. The number of people who can financially, physically, emotionally be able to be family caregivers is on the decline.
"So we need this task force to help identify what services are available to caregivers and how can we improve and expand on that to make sure they can continue to do that good work," McDonald said.
The task force will consist of 11 members from public and private sectors. Three public members will be appointed by Murphy, including one who is a caregiver for a person with a disability, one person who is a caregiver for a person with mental illness and one person who is a caregiver for an elderly person.
McDonald said the task force is in charge of not only researching what existing services are out there but actually surveying caregivers on the ground to find out what they need, what's working well and what can be improved.
There is a need for financial relief that improves respite care, added McDonald. The average caregiver spends more than $7,000 out of their own pocket to help care for their loved ones. She said many help with daily activities such as bathing, feeding, grocery shopping, giving medical injections and assisting with wound care.
"It's not only helpful to individual families to be able to make sure that our loved ones can choose how they want to live as they age and be able to stay at home if that's where they want to be, but it's also really important for our state to make sure we keep a handle on our long-term services and support costs," McDonald said.
Caregiving can take serious emotional and physical tolls on a caregiver's life, ranging from health issues to the loss of wages and health benefits, said state Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-Mercer, one of the prime sponsors of the bill. If the state gets a better understanding of their needs, then the state can provide assistance to them as best as possible, she said.