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Senator Fred Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester, listens to testimony before the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee regarding services for people with developmental disabilities.

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Fred H. Madden, Jr. and Senator Nellie Pou to establish a task force that would evaluate and provide recommendations on caregiver support services was approved today by the full Senate.

The bill, S-2640, would  establish the “New Jersey Caregiver Task Force” to determine the availability of caregiver support services in the State, and to provide recommendations for the improvement and expansion of these services. The Task Force, consisting of nine members, would be required to research and compile information on resources, policies and programs to assist caregivers. Under the legislation, the Task Force would also need to conduct surveys and hear testimony from individuals providing care services. The bill would require the task force to prepare and submit a report on its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature within 12 months.

“Along with the responsibility of caring for a loved one with an illness, caregivers are often faced with many challenges that can be both physically and mentally taxing,” said Senator Madden (D-Camden/Gloucester). “These individuals deserve the support and assistance necessary to help them continue to provide quality care for their family member or friend in need. This bill would provide caregivers with a resource that they can rely on. Creating a task force would ultimately help in identifying their needs and any issues that should be addressed through the Legislature.”

The legislation would define a “caregiver” as any person, 18 years of age or older, who provides assistance, in a non-medical setting, and without financial compensation to an elderly or functionally impaired individual. Assistance would include the performance of daily tasks, such as walking, eating, dressing, administering medications, providing injury care, or operating medical equipment, according to the bill.

“Caregivers provide essential support for residents living with an illness, much like medical professionals,” said Senator Pou (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Many times, they are family members providing care without pay to individuals who need assistance with daily tasks. It is imperative that we provide them with the critical resources and assistance they need to be able to appropriately care for their loved ones, while also protecting their own personal health and wellbeing.”

According to AARP, an estimated 1.75 million people in New Jersey provide varying degrees of unreimbursed care to persons who are elderly or disabled and limited in their daily activities.  Additionally, the U.S. Census Bureau estimate that by 2020, the number of adults who need assistance with daily living activities is expected to double.

The bill was approved with a vote of 40-0.  It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

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