The financial and emotional toll of being a family caregiver can be tremendous, and as more baby boomers age, the number of adult children in New Jersey taking care of their parents likely will increase.

Care for elderly (Photo credit: Pamela Moore,Thinkstock)

There are an estimated 90 million family caregivers nationwide, and nearly two million in New Jersey, according to John Schall, chief executive officer of The Caregiver Action Network.

“It’s a role that people do out of love and they feel a lot of satisfaction from doing it, but it can take a real toll on the pocketbook. For instance, financially, a family caregiver will probably spend about $5,500 a year out-of-pocket for caregiving expenses that aren’t covered by Medicare or insurance,” Schal said.

A survey done by AARP provides a snapshot of the average caregiver in the U.S., according to Lynette Whiteman, executive director of Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey.

“The average U.S. caregiver is a 49-year-old woman, who works outside the home, and spends nearly 20 hours per week providing care to her mother, and of course, this care is unpaid,” Whiteman said. “In New Jersey, the typical unpaid family caregiver, again, is a married woman, who is in her 50s and likely to be employed. Forty-eight percent of them are working while caring for a loved one.”

The toll of financially caring for a loved one is further compounded by the emotional suffering many experience, and can lead to feelings of anger about being in such a position, and guilt about not being about able to take even better care of a loved one, according to Schall.

“You need some place to be able to talk about those and vent those emotions,” he said. “Family caregivers feel very isolated. Not only do you feel overwhelmed by what you’re facing, but you feel like you’re in it alone. Oftentimes, you can be stranded at home because that’s where you have to care for your loved one and you don’t want to be outside the house too many hours of the day,” Schall added.

Whiteman noted many adult children also care for their parents out of obligation for raising them.

“I think people don’t really feel comfortable talking about it because they feel like it’s their duty and they shouldn’t complain,” she said.

There are free materials and resources available to help family caregivers get through some of the challenges.

Caregiveraction.org offers an online forum, where individuals can, anonymously if they choose, share questions with other family caregivers, vent about their feelings, and get advice, according to Schall.

“It’s very important for people to realize that you’re not in this alone, that two out of every five Americans are a family caregiver, so there are a lot of people facing exactly what you’re facing,” Schall said.

In New Jersey, Whiteman noted a good resource for family caregivers is their County Office on Aging to see what services their parents might qualify for.

“There’s a lot of programs out there. A lot of them are financially-based, but at least find what it is. See if you could get Meals on Wheels to come in, see if you could get your parent to a senior center, see if you could be referred to a program, like Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey that has their own set of services that we provide,” she said.