With the population aging — by 2030, the number of people age 65 and older is expected to be twice what it was in 2000 — family members and friends increasingly find themselves in caregiver roles.
It’s estimated that 34.2 million U.S. residents provide unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older, according to a 2015 study conducted by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving. (Another 9.3 million took care of a child.) More than 1 million New Jersey residents are caregivers.
While caring for a loved one can be fulfilling, it also can take a toll physically and emotionally. Too often, caregivers devote themselves to loved ones while ignoring their own needs. During National Family Caregivers Month, caregivers are encouraged to mind their own well-being.
Tips for Caregivers:
- Get regular medical checkups and monitor your health the way you are monitoring your loved ones.
- Accept offers of help.
- Join a support group to socialize with other caregivers and learn from one another. The United Way of Northern New Jersey runs a Caregivers Coalition, with monthly meetings in Essex, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren counties.
- Eat sensibly and make time for exercise (walking is a great option).
- Look for signs of depression, and seek professional help if you feel overwhelmed.
Ways to Support Caregivers:
- Prepare a special meal that will provide delicious leftovers.
- Offer to fill in for a few hours.
- Plan an outing with them and arrange for someone trustworthy to provide care.
- Watch for signs of depression and recommend professional help if needed.
NewBridge Services, a 501c(3) nonprofit, is a premier provider of counseling services, housing and educational programs in northern New Jersey serving 10,000 adults and seniors last year alone. NewBridge treats mental illnesses and addictions; teaches skills for coping with stress, grief and challenging relationships; builds and manages affordable housing; offers school-based programs that teach children and adolescents resiliency skills for healthy emotional development; helps young adults succeed in their education and prepare for careers; and supports seniors so they can remain independent. Throughout its more than 50-year history, NewBridge has remained true to its mission of bringing balance to people’s lives by tracking shifts in communities’ needs and providing innovative, effective programs to meet them.