An Assembly panel on Thursday advanced legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Gabriela Mosquera, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Joe Danielsen creating a task force to ensure that New Jersey is doing all it can to support caregivers who provide invaluable services.
The legislation (A-1463) would establish the “New Jersey Caregiver Task Force” to evaluate caregiver support services in the state and provide recommendations for improving and expanding services.
“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 want to make sure we are doing all we can to provide them with the resources and support they need to fill this critical role.”
“Anyone who’s ever found themselves in a caregiver roll 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.”
The 11-member task force would be comprised of a broad range of stakeholders, including the Commissioner of Human Services, the President of the New Jersey chapter of AARP, the Executive Director of Caregivers of New Jersey, the Executive Director of the Arc of New Jersey, the Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness New Jersey, the President of the Home Care and Hospice Association of New Jersey, the President of Leading Age New Jersey and the President of the Alzheimer’s Association Greater New Jersey Chapter, or their designees; and three public members to be appointed by the Governor.
The public members would include 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.
“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 needs to take an honest look at how we can better address these needs.”
“Family caregivers, in particular, are often unpaid, which creates an increased financial strain, especially when it pulls them away from a paying job,” said Danielsen. “This is just one of many areas I hope the task force will explore to alleviate some of the burden on caring for a loved one.”
The task force would be required to: (1) identify existing caregiver support services available in the state; (2) 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 (3) 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, the costs associated with caregiving, the availability and sufficiency of financial support services, the availability and sufficiency of respite care services, 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 task force would be required to 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, that would be necessary to improve, expand, or supplement existing caregiver support service programs and systems in New Jersey.
The legislation was approved by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.