HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - Many people take care of elderly parents or grandparents without much help. Responsibilities at home make demands on adult children which adds additional stress to caregivers every time they answer a call. The inevitable that is asked: "What happens to so-and-so if something happens to me?"

The role as ‘caregiver’ to a parent or another adult family member is not easy to define. Are you working as a family unit or are other members in the background as the work falls on one person who lives close by? Caregiving to an adult will be increasing in the next twenty years as the ‘Baby Boom’ generation ages into retirement. No matter how healthy someone may seem in our eyes, everyone ages and it takes one illness to throw a whole family off balance.

Hasbrouck Heights resident Justin Watrel found this out when his father had a massive stroke and as he recovered, maneuvered the task of helping his father get healthy again.

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“There was not book of instructions that I had,” says Mr. Watrel, “I had to go by what other seniors told me and experiences friends had with their parents.”

Watrel was lucky that he was a member of his town’s ambulance squad and had experience with patients in the past. This helped the morning that his father had the stroke, keeping calm, calling 911 and the support of his fire department members who came out in droves at 6:15am in the morning to assist him and his father.

“My father was lucky in that I had been on duty that night and the police officer who I was on duty with came to the house in five minutes of the call and eight members of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department and Ambulance squad were there about six minutes later," said Watrel. "I had so many people helping me that I could think what was going on except to get him to the hospital.”

After several months of grueling therapy, his father came home and that was when the experience of caregiving came into play.

“I did not know where to start but was lucky to have two social workers at both the acute and subacute facilities to guide me on the trip home," he said. "Once there, I was on my own.”

This is when he used the internet and found the first of four stroke support groups. From here, he met other caregivers that shared their stories.

Eventually the leader of the support group in Ridgewood moved and Watrel, a registered Consultant with the State of New Jersey, took the job. Over the years, many speakers passed through the group’s door with different programs that no one had ever heard of or experienced. He harnessed the information he had learned and decided to create an online resource to expand the reach and help others who also found themselves struggling as caregivers.

“How the blog site came about was that members were complaining of the amount of paperwork they had to bring home and then got lost," he said. "I decided to put a blog site together to help them with putting the information into one site. Now I input programs that speakers inform me about, things I find online and charitable programs that are 501c3 that most social workers don’t know about."

Watrel's blog, BergenCountyCaregiver.com has now morphed to include Immigration, Housing, Meal Service and Companionship. The site is ‘one-stop-shopping’ to find information on all sorts of the programs on the town, county, state and federal level that might help a caregiver guide through the process of helping a loved one.

"I wish I had had this when I started my journey as a caregiver,” Watrel added. “It would have made it easier for me and from what I learned I want to make it easier for others to help their loved ones.”


Editor's Note: Justin Watrel contributed to this article.



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