Family caregivers, often deemed the “invisible workforce,” provide critical care every day to help their parents, spouses, adult children with disabilities, and other loved ones live independently in their homes and communities. Their assistance, varying from companionship to hands-on medical care, can mean the difference between their loved ones remaining at home or requiring more costly care in a nursing home or other institution.
In 2013, about 1.1 million caregivers in New Jersey provided care for an adult loved one who was ill, frail, elderly, or had a physical, mental, or emotional disability, according to a 2015 AARP Public Policy Institute report. These family caregivers provided over a billion hours of care for an estimated economic value of over $13 billion. Valuing the Invaluable: 2015 Update.
To understand more about the needs and experiences of family caregivers in New Jersey and to gauge support for a number of caregiving initiatives, AARP New Jersey commissioned a telephone survey among 1,001 registered voters age 45 and older residing in New Jersey. Over half of our respondents had direct experience as a family caregiver, either currently or in the past. Of those respondents currently providing care to a loved one, about one in five is also caring for children 18 and under living with them, and four percent are caring for their grandchildren.
Current or former caregivers are or have most likely cared for their parents, a spouse or partner, or an in-law. They help with countless tasks including transportation, meals, household chores, finances, shopping, and companionship. Many directly managed or manage the health of their loved ones by helping to bathe and dress, overseeing medications, and performing complex medical and nursing tasks.
About two in three caregivers had been working while they provided care. Most working caregivers had to adjust their work schedules to provide care and many needed to take a leave of absence from their job or stop working entirely.
About two in three caregivers used their own money to provide care, and two in five made changes to their own homes to accommodate the loved one in their care.
Seven in ten caregivers say they felt “stressed out” emotionally due to their caregiving responsibilities. Their caregiving responsibilities also affected the health of many caregivers by making it difficult for them to get enough rest, exercise regularly, or maintain a healthy diet.
Across political party lines, registered voters 45-plus in New Jersey support the caregiving initiatives outlined in our survey, including …
- Expanding New Jersey’s Respite Care program; and
- Expanding New Jersey’s State Income Tax Credit program
so that both of these programs are available to more family caregivers.
Also across party lines, voters support expanding workplace flexibility for family caregivers who work by …
- Requiring employers to offer a limited amount of paid leave that may be used to care for parents, spouses, and other loved ones.
- Adding protections so that employers cannot fire employees who take time off to fulfill their caregiving responsibilities.
- Modifying New Jersey’s Family Leave Insurance program in four ways – adding job protections so workers will not lose their jobs when they take leave; broadening the definition of family members; expanding the number of weeks that leave can be taken; and increasing the amount of wage replacement that workers receive.
Voters also support revising outdated rules so that nurse practitioners and advanced practice registered nurses may fully do their jobs, serving as the primary or acute care provider of record for patients.
AARP New Jersey commissioned a telephone survey among 1,001 registered voters age 45-plus in New Jersey to learn about their experiences with family caregiving. There are 3,240,000 registered voters age 45-plus in the state of New Jersey. The interviews averaged 28 minutes in length and were conducted in English and Spanish. For more information contact Terri Guengerich at TGuengerich@aarp.org.