Our Blog

Caregiving in New Jersey Series Overview

By: Darian Constantine

Session 1 – Defining Caregiving & its Impact on Family, Patients & Friends

       The first part of the Caregiving in New Jersey Series was all about defining caregiving and how it impacts caregivers, patients, and friends. Our first presentation was by Courtney Roman of Center for Health Care Strategies, giving an overview on caregiving. Roman explained how a family caregiver can basically be anybody, and we all know people serving in this role. Roman described caregivers as a person who has a significant personal relationship with and provides a broad range of assistance for an older person or an adult with a chronic or disabling condition. These caregivers may or may not live with the person receiving care; their primary goal is to make the person receiving care as comfortable as possible.

          Our second presentation was presented by Kathleen Otte of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services explaining a national strategy that can be able to support family caregivers. Otte explains how that strategy can be able to empower communities, agencies, and other stakeholder groups to select actions for implementation; this strategy is a significant milestone in our national effort to improve the way we can support family caregivers and the people they are caring for.

You can view the recording here: https://youtu.be/-6QNJWRSTbE

Session 2Finding Support & Building Skills  

   The second part of the Caregiving in New Jersey Series was about finding support and building skills. Our first presentation was by Mary-Catherine Lundquist of Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, COPSA, and Care2Caregivers; Lundquist’s presentation reviewed the different stages of caregiving, as well as what it takes to build a care team while exploring how to identify current connections, exploring community supports, and ways to contact professional support for anyone who is a caregiver.

          Our second presentation was by Robyn Kohn of Alzheimer’s Association. Kohn’s presentation talks about Alzheimer’s Disease, including what it is, how common it is, and raising awareness on what an Alzheimer’s caregiver does. Caring for a loved one going through Alzheimer’s is an overwhelming and highly emotional time for the caregiver and rest of the family, and Kohn sheds light on this. Kohn also discussed ways we can help with Alzheimer’s as individuals, as an organization, and in our communities.

You can view the recording here: https://youtu.be/8Pn-sfp736I

Session 3 -Benefits: Family Leave, Respite Care, NJ Family Leave Insurance

The third and final part of the Caregiving In New Jersey Series was about the different benefits related to caregiving, such as Family Leave Benefits, Respite Care, and NJ Family Leave Insurance. Our first presentation was by Lauren Levant of Jewish Home Family talking about the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA is a federal law that is enacted to protect employees’ jobs and medical insurance when they need unpaid time from work for certain family and/or medical reasons.

          Our second presentation was by Jennifer Rutberg of New Jersey Division of Aging Services on Respite Care. Respite care is taking time away from caregiving so caregivers can go back to their duties refreshed and protected from burnout. Respite care can include anything revolving around your self-care and enjoyment.

          Our third and final presentation was by Ellen Maughan of New Jersey Paid Leave Outreach Collaborative talking about Paid Family Leave in New Jersey. Paid Family Leave in New Jersey has existed since 2009 and has expanded in recent years. Employees can use Family Leave Insurance to take care of their loved ones, themselves, or cope with any form of trauma or grief.

We want to thank Parker Life for the support of this series!

You can view the recording here: https://youtu.be/pnizpNgzdAY

We will continue to expand our events on caregiving.  Our next event will be  a webinar for caregivers from Teepa Snow’s “Positive Approach to Care.”  This is offered free to NJ caregivers and people who work with individuals with dementia and will be held Tuesday, May 2 at 6pm.  Register for this event here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_7I3pn_nxTRSGynajBz5qyg

Thanks for being a part of the Caregiving in New Jersey Series!

Reflection on the NJAAW Housing Series

A guest blog by William Cotrone, NJAAW intern

As the global population continues to grow/age, appropriate housing for older adults is now more important than ever. Most of NJ’s current housing stock was built for young able-bodied adults and nuclear families.

Currently, 30% of homeowners in the US are single and live alone. By 2030, 20% of the US population will be considered “senior citizens,” and most older adults would prefer to live in their own homes for as long as possible. But what if their home is not designed to accommodate them as they age? Fortunately, there are solutions.

Staying in Your Home

Adaptations and renovations can allow people to stay in their homes safely for longer.

For example, AARP has a free HomeFit Guide that explains how to incorporate universal design principles and products into homes, which are safe and easy to use. Most of the elements in the guide can be done without professional assistance

Another option is to hire either an occupational therapist (OT) or physical therapist (PT) who is also a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS). These individuals can make recommendations on how to repurpose your home to reflect your functional, mobility, and cognitive needs so that you can live safely and comfortably.

A CAPS will examine such things as the entry and/or foyer (Is it clutter free? Is there a rug that could cause a person to slip and fall? Is there enough light?). If an individual requires a mobility device such as a walker or wheelchair, are doorways and hallways wide enough to pass? In the kitchen, a CAPS will scrutinize chair height so that sitting and rising are made easier, floor space so that mobility devices can pass, lighting to assist people with visual challenges, etc.

Probably the most important place to have examined is the bathroom, especially since 80% of falls occur here.

Probably the most important place to have examined is the bathroom, especially since 80% of falls occur here. A CAPS can make recommendations on toilet height, grab bars, slip mats or bathroom chairs for the shower area.

For the rest of the house, stairs should be well lit and have handrails. Another option is a chair lift to take older adults up and down. Smart technology devices might also be beneficial for such functions as turning on the lights or a faucet.

For outside the home, thoughtful landscaping or therapy gardens make a great addition. Engaging with nature has an immense list of health benefits, so make an outdoor space age-friendly. Comfortable furniture for the patio area, safe walkways, good lighting and smart technology increase the ability to enjoy outdoors safely.

Getting Help in the Home

Knowing when help is needed and how to find it can be challenging. One option is to hire assistance directly or via an agency. While Home Health Care (HHC) covers skilled support services (including RN/PT/OT) and is usually paid for by Medicare or insurance following a hospital stay or during recovery, older adults may need a lower level of care to assist them with activities of daily living (ADLs). These services, such as toileting, bathing, dressing, eating, moving, and grooming, can be provided by Certified Home Health Aides (CHHAs). However, CHHA services often have very limited insurance coverage, leaving most people to pay out of pocket.

When deciding what type of provider to employ, consider the following: A family member/caregiver who hires privately may save money, but the “employee” might not have the proper skill set or be insured. Engaging an agency is more expensive. However, such added benefits as knowing that the agency has supervision, specific hiring requirements, insurance, licensed staff, and compliance policies, are often worth the extra cost.

Another option is Adult Day Care. These programs provide care and companionship for older adults who need assistance or supervision during the day. This provides caregivers with a much-needed break and allows them to go to work, school, do housekeeping, etc. Research has shown that social interaction in a Day Care setting improves an older adult’s mental, physical and emotional health as well as reduces the risk of developing depression and dementia.

Finally, for people who need more help or are near nursing-level care, PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) programs allow people to remain at home. While limited geographically, the number of PACE programs in NJ is increasing. More information can be found here.

Residential Options

When staying in one’s home is no longer possible, what are the options to choose from and how does one assess them?

First, independent living is an option for older adults who do not have severe physical or cognitive challenges. An independent living environment usually includes age-friendly features like grab bars, walk-in showers, emergency response services, community dining, age-appropriate entertainment, transportation services, etc. They are relatively affordable at market prices and many are designated as “affordable housing.” If needed, home care, paid by the resident, can be arranged.

The next option is assisted living. Residents of an assisted living community tend to have physical or cognitive challenges but are still able to retain some autonomy. Assisted living units are often smaller than independent living settings because they lack some of the customary rooms of a typical house, like a kitchen. Staff can help residents with ADLs and medication management.

The third option is a long-term care (LTC) facility or a traditional “nursing home,” which provides shelter and around-the-clock care for people with ADL and health difficulties. Reasons for seeking LTC might include that a person suffered a severe injury or medical emergency and needs rehabilitation to return home, or their physical/mental state is diminishing, which could make them susceptible to injuries or illnesses. Long-term care facilities can also provide hospice care and many offer memory units.

Pulling these options together is the “Life Plan Model,” also known as a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). Residents can transition their living situation and care level without having to transfer out of the facility. For example, a typical transition might be going from independent living to assisted living or independent living to rehabilitation. This may be the appropriate option for couples where one needs care services and the other doesn’t.

For all of the options in getting help in the home, or relocating to an age-focused place, it is important to plan ahead.

For all of the options in getting help in the home, or relocating to an age-focused place, it is important to plan ahead. Unless related to a hospital stay, Medicare does not pay for home care or long-term care. If someone qualifies for Medicaid or affordable housing, eligibility should be established as early as possible. Long-term care insurance or private insurance may cover some costs, but most people will be paying out of pocket.

Aging is like the weather. You can plan for it, and anticipate what will happen, but you won’t know until it actually happens. Like the weather, aging and finances can change unexpectedly. Older adults deserve to live with dignity and comfort. They deserve affordable, appropriate and accessible housing and must plan ahead and know their options.

Click here for a summary of NJAAW’s Housing Series and links to the four recorded sessions.

William Cotrone recently graduated from Bates College with a degree in psychology and is and future medical student (hopefully in a field related to aging). He previously interned at senior residential sites in Lewiston, ME.