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Family Caregiving Expanding With Aging Population

Thursday, November 09, 2023
November is National Family Caregivers Month. Image shows an adult daughter supporting her father as he walks with a cane.

November is National Family Caregivers Month.

With the U.S. population aging and the costs of hiring help growing, people with loved ones in need of care are increasingly taking on the role of caregiver. Nearly 42 million of the nation’s 53 million family caregivers provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in 2020 — nearly 1 in 6 Americans, according to a report by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP.

That phenomenon is expected to continue: While people age 65 and up made up 17% of the population in 2020, they are expected to account for 22% by 2040. The demand on family members can be daunting.

“Taking care of a parent or a partner who needs help with daily living often evokes positive feelings, but it can also cause tremendous stress, especially for people who are also raising young children,” said NewBridge Services CEO Michelle Borden, a licensed clinical social worker. Even when a family can afford to bring in a home health aide a few hours a day, there are still many uncovered hours.

During National Family Caregivers Month, NewBridge Services is offering advice and resources. 

Self-Care

Self-care practices are so important, though caregiver often feel they have no time for them. But not tending to your well-being increases the likelihood of developing depression, anxiety and stress, as well as putting your physical health at risk. Here are helpful tips to can ease stress:

  • 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 available)
  • 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
  • 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
  • Use the wealth of resources on AARP’s website and through the United Way of Northern New Jersey

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, as well as seniors, can receive counseling to help cope with their new reality. Both programs are free to Morris County residents age 60 and over.

NewBridge@Home Director Katie Skolsky has developed an hourlong course on understanding Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and how caregivers can cope. Thanks to generous from the John Bickford Foundation, senior centers and residences can arrange for a free class by contacting Skolsky at KSkolsky@newbridge.org.

Bodies in Motion

Caregivers are invited to participate in NewBridge’s Bodies in Motion, a free, virtual move-to-movement class that helps alleviate stress. Upcoming hourlong session are on Nov. 16 and 30 at 1 p.m. EST, so it’s a great opportunity to give it a try. All movements can be modified to accommodate ability, and participants receive a gift card. Register here, and contact Beth Jacobson, director of Community Outreach and Education, at ejacobson@newbridge.org with questions.

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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