Panel Will Offer Recommendations for Legislation, Ways to Improve Caregiver Support Services in the State
Ensuring that New Jersey is doing all it can to support caregivers who provide invaluable services to loved ones and friends, legislation (formerly bill A-3514) sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Gabriela Mosquera and Valerie Vainieri Huttle that would create the “New Jersey Caregiver Task Force” was signed into law Friday.
An estimated 1.75 million people in New Jersey provide varying degrees of unreimbursed care to persons who are elderly or disabled and limited in their daily activities.
Caregivers are often the immediate family members of the individual being cared for, but may also be friends or community members.
“Caregivers face an untold number of challenges in today’s society,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Many family caregivers are fulfilling these duties out of a sense of love and devotion, which can often make them feel anxious and overwhelmed. We must make sure we are doing all we can to provide them with the resources and support they need to fill this critical role.”
Caregivers may assist an individual with the basic activities associated with daily living, including walking, eating, and dressing. They may also be expected to perform more complex daily tasks, such as administering multiple medications, providing wound care, and operating medical equipment.
“Anyone who’s ever found themselves in a caregiver role understands the toll it can take,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Lack of sleep, privacy and the time to fulfill one’s own needs can increase the risk for depression and anxiety. I hope this task force will take to heart the real-life experiences of caregivers so we can create a greater support network statewide.”
“Studies show that the emotional and physical health of caregivers often suffers as a result of the stress and physical demands they encounter, particularly when it comes to caring for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “This task force will take an honest look at how we can better address these needs.”
The 11-member task force will be comprised of a broad range of organizations and community representatives, including one person 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.
The task force will be required to:
– identify existing caregiver support services available in the state;
– identify and survey caregivers in the state, in order to develop an aggregate summary of caregiver characteristics, including age, geographic location, the amount of time spent in caregiving activities and acting in the caregiver role; the nature and severity of illnesses or conditions suffered by the persons being cared for; and the existing support services that are most commonly used by caregivers; and
– solicit testimony from caregivers on the nature and type of tasks they perform; the feasibility of task delegation; the availability and sufficiency of caregiver training programs, financial support services, and respite care services; the costs associated with caregiving; the practical experiences of caregivers in relation to their requests for, or receipt of, support services; their experiences interacting with various entities in relation to caregiving matters; and the use of medical leave for caregiving purposes.
The panel will submit a report to the Governor and the Legislature within 12 months of its organization detailing its findings and providing recommendations for legislation, or for regulatory or programmatic changes. The task force will be temporary and will disband after the submission of the report.
The law was introduced in March. It passed the Assembly by a vote of 79-0-0 on December 17 and the Senate 40-0 on October 29.