Help needed for New Jersey’s 1 million family caregivers
About one-ninth of New Jersey's population is currently serving as a caregiver in some capacity.
In some instances, care is delivered by making a few trips to the hospital per month, or by picking up the tab for meals and other bills. For some, being a caregiver means needing to be present around the clock for a parent or other aging loved one.
But who supports the caregiver?
According to AARP, more than a million people in the state provide a total of $17.6 billion in unpaid care each year.
"We know from family caregivers themselves that many are paying for care expenses out of their own pocket," said Evelyn Liebman, director of advocacy for AARP New Jersey. "On average, nationally, folks are spending well over $7,000 a year."
Challenges for family caregivers go beyond finances, advocates note — there are emotional and physical stressors as well.
A number of today's caregivers, Liebman said, are part of the so-called sandwich generation — they're caring for their own children at home, while tending to one or more older family members in order to help them live independently.
"Many are reducing their work hours or leaving jobs because of their care responsibilities," Liebman said.
There's a push to increase supports for family caregivers on the state and national level. Legislation in New Jersey that saw action as recently as February of this year would create the Caregiver's Assistance Act, offering tax credits for certain expenses incurred by someone during care for a senior family member.
As part of the most recent state budget, Liebman added, money was set aside to create an online resource hub for family caregivers who have questions.
In a July 2023 survey, 70% of voters in an AARP survey said they would be more likely to support a candidate who backs proposals to support family caregivers.
"Most of us have been or will be a family caregiver, or will need help to live independently as we age," Liebman said.