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Sept. 4, 2020
Morris County Grants Help United Way Provide Free Technology to Family Caregivers
100 Family Caregivers in Morris and Warren Counties Can Receive Assistive Technology
Assistive technology devices transform the lives of unpaid family caregivers, allowing them peace of mind to work without the fear that something dangerous will happen to their loved ones while they are way.
Following a successful pilot program by United Way of Northern New Jersey, unpaid family caregivers across Morris and Warren counties can apply for 100 grants of assistive technology devices such as smart plugs, video cameras, a video doorbell and a smart speaker connected to a virtual assistant. The initial program gave the devices to 22 unpaid family caregivers across Morris and Essex counties.
Applicants who apply to the United Way for a needs assessment may receive assistive technology and virtual tech support to install and learn how to use the equipment.
The program is funded thanks to grants from the Morris County Department of Human Services, the Morristown Medical Center Community Health Committee and the Warren County Division on Aging.
Citing the case of “Angela” from Morris County, United Way noted that she is the sole provider for her family, working three jobs, leaving the house at 6 a.m. weekdays and ending her days after 10 p.m. Her husband can’t work due to his Parkinson’s disease and her teenage son has multiple disabilities. Due to her long absences from home, she spent her work days worrying if they were safe while alone at home.
That is, until she received tech support that included smart plugs, video cameras, a video doorbell and a smart speaker connected to a virtual assistant.
“It releases me from stress. This way I can see what’s going on in the house,” said Angela. “And, now, with COVID-19, the Ring doorbell helps us talk with deliverymen; we don’t have to have physical contact.”
Studies show that caregivers are at greater risk for depression and compromised physical health than the general population. These are the family members or friends who care for a loved one who is ill, frail or living with a disability, performing duties as wide ranging as day-to-day basic needs care to driving to doctor appointments and administering medication.
The United Way pilot program was designed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the need has grown exponentially due to the health risks associated with COVID-19 for vulnerable populations, according to United Way’s Stephanie Howland, who oversees the program. From medication reminders to remotely checking in on a loved one, United Way tailors the services to meet the needs of each family, she said.
“Having this technology has the potential to save lives,” Howland said. “Even before the COVID-19 pandemic we knew family caregivers needed extra eyes and ears in the homes of their loved ones in order to lessen the stress and pressure of juggling work and personal responsibilities with caregiving. Since the pandemic, the need to have reliable, virtual contact with vulnerable loved ones has become even more critical.”
For 15 years United Way has provided education, resources and a network of support for family caregivers through caregiver coalitions in the northern New Jersey region. There are an estimated 53 million family caregivers in the United States, according to AARP. With 80 percent of long-term care provided in the home, family caregivers are the backbone of the health care system.
For more information or to apply for the assistive technology program, email [email protected] or call 973.993.1160, x115 or [email protected] or call 973.993.1160, x108
This press release was produced by the Morris County Government. The views expressed here are the author’s own.