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Family Caregivers Face Added Challenges During COVID-19 Pandemic

Monday, November 02, 2020

Family caregivers are honored this month.Being a family caregiver is taxing under the best of circumstances. The interminable COVID-19 pandemic has only ratcheted up the logistical challenges and emotional toll.

A loved one may need hands-on help with daily tasks, but you run the risk of spreading the virus if you get close to them. Therapies and other programs she or he attended may no longer be an option. For safety sake, fewer people are allowed to visit, putting more demands on the caregiver. 

“It is tough juggling the needs and risks involved in caring for your loved one at a time when you’re trying to cope with the personal and societal impacts of pandemic,” NewBridge Services CEO Michelle Borden said.

Free Seniors in Motion Class Nov. 5

NewBridge is marking National Family Caregivers Month by inviting seniors and  caregivers to enjoy a free hourlong virtual session of Seniors in Motion at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 5. Participants will have fun moving to music — all moves can be modified to accommodate ability — and receive a gift card. Click here to register for the session, sponsored by NewBridge’s Tame the Pain program. Call Beth Jacobson, director of Community Response and Education, at (973) 686-2242 if you have questions.

Family caregivers provide physical, emotional and financial support to someone close to them with an illness or disability that prevents them from taking care of themselves. They may handle the grocery shopping, housework, meal preparation, medication management, bill paying, and personal care like helping the person shower and dress.

Number of Family Caregivers Growing

An estimated 53 million people in the U.S. were family caregivers in 2019; nearly 42 million of them provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older, according to a report by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP released in May. That’s up 16.8% since 2015. The study also found that almost a quarter of caregivers are caring for two or more people.

Studies have found that family caregivers have higher rates of depression, anxiety and stress, and have poorer physical health than non-caregivers.

Self-care Tips for Family Caregivers

NewBridge Services suggests these self-care practices for caregivers:

  • Share your feelings with family and friends, and/or keep a journal
  • Recruit others to help with some of the responsibilities, such as cooking and shopping 
  • Practice meditation (there are lots of online resources online, including this one
  • Walk or do other forms of exercise daily (try three 10-minute sessions)
  • Allow yourself a time-out to release your feelings
  • Talk to a therapist, which can be done virtually
  • Find a support group at nj211.org or United Way of Northern New Jersey
  • Go for annual physicals
  • Practice patience with the loved one you’re caring for, and yourself
  • Don’t use alcohol or other drugs to numb feelings

NewBridge’s Senior Assistance for Independent Living (SAIL) guides families to useful services and programs available in their community, including home health aides, grocery shopping, transportation, and bill-paying. Through NewBridge@Home, caregivers can receive counseling to help them cope with their family’s new reality. Both programs are free to Morris County residents age 60 and over, thanks to support from the Morris County freeholders and the county’s Division on Aging, Disabilities and Community Programming. [Normally provided in clients’ homes, both programs are currently operating via telehealth because of the COVID-19 pandemic.] 

Friends and relatives can also play a role in supporting caregivers: 

  • Prepare a special meal, cooking enough for leftovers 
  • Offer to fill in for a few hours, if that’s possible
  • Watch for signs of depression and recommend professional help if needed

More Resources

Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care runs the Care2Caregivers helpline for people who care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The peer counselors who answer calls can relate: they have cared for a family member with dementia or Alzheimer’s and have worked professionally with patients with dementia. The number is: (800) 424-2494.

The National Alliance for Caregiving is an excellent resource for caregivers, and provides links to other organizations that can help. The Family Caregiver Alliance has an extensive learning center that provides tips, facts and webinars on caregiving.

If you or someone you love needs help, call (973) 316-9333 or visit newbridge.org.

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