Just five days ago, Acting Governor Sheila Oliver today signed legislation (formerly bill A-3514) to establish the New Jersey Caregiver Task Force, to put the spot light on caregiving issues faced by 1.75 million people who provide uncompensated care in the Garden State. The new governmental task force will take a look at available caregiver support services and will also recommend improvements and expansion of such services. An initial report will be given to the Governor Phil Murray and the legislature within a year of its organization.
New Jersey’s Caregiver Task Force Law was introduced last March ultimately passing the New Jersey Assembly by a vote of 79-0 and the Senate by a vote of 40-0. Prime sponsors of the enacted bill include Senators Joseph Vitale and Linda Greenstein; Assembly members Pamela Lampitt, Gabriela Mosquera, and Valerie Vainieri Huttle.
The newly created Task Force will consist of 11 members from public and private sectors. Three public members will be appointed by Murray, 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. AARP has a seat at the table, too.
“Caregivers throughout our state work long hours for often little to no compensation, supporting the elderly and those with disabilities, including mental illnesses,” said Acting Governor Sheila Oliver at the bill signing at Trenton, adding that “I am proud to sign a bill creating the New Jersey Caregiver Taskforce, which will explore ways to improve conditions and support these selfless individuals and the people they care for.”
Exploring Ways to Support New Jersey’s Caregivers
“Caregivers are vital to the quality of life for many New Jerseyans, especially individuals with disabilities and older adults, but caregiving is also difficult work that can take its toll,” said Commissioner Carole Johnson, member of the New Jersey Caregiver Task Force. “Caregivers devote their lives to their loved ones, often missing work and missing out on wages, and this is going to become more of a concern in the coming years with an aging population. The Murphy Administration is committed to supporting caregivers and improving programs that can help. I look forward to working with the task force and supporting caregivers throughout our state,” says Johnson.
The new law, establishing the Caregiver Task Force, allows state officials to study, design and implement programs that provide assistance needed uncompensated relatives, friends or community members, says Senator Joseph F. Vitale. “We need to formulate the right kind of support for caregivers now so that when the number of adults needing assistance with daily activities doubles by 2020, we will be prepared to help,” says, the Woodbridge, New Jersey resident representing the state’s 19 legislative district.
Adds, Senator Linda R. Greenstein, “Caregiving can take serious emotional and physical tolls that often leads to consequences in the caregivers’ own lives, ranging from health issues to the loss of wages and health benefits.” notes the Democratic Senator residing in Plainsboro, New Jersey resident. “Getting a better understanding of the needs of caregivers will allow us to provide assistance to them in areas of their lives where they need it the most,” says Greenstein representing the state’s 14th legislative district.
“Caregivers face an untold number of challenges in today’s society,” said Assemblywoman Pamula R. Lampitt. “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,” says the Democratic lawmaker.
There is a Physical and Emotional Toll in Being a Caregiver
“Anyone who’s ever found themselves in a caregiver role understands the toll it can take,” said Assemblywoman Gabriela M. Mosquera. The Democratic lawmaker noted that “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 Democratic Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle. “This task force will take an honest look at how we can better address these needs,” she says.
According to AARP New Jersey, with New Jersey’s age 65 and over population expected to double by 2050. The aging advocacy group applauds the passage of the bill in a December 17th statement, stating “Family caregivers are the backbone of our long term care system, providing unpaid care valued at over $13 billion each year in New Jersey alone. It is imperative that we continue to pursue solutions that support family caregivers”