Kupuna Care­givers pro­gram could get up to $4M

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - BUSINESS - By Kris­ten Con­sil­lio kcon­sil­lio@starad­ver­tiser.com

Law­mak­ers are con­sid­er­ing $2 mil­lion to $4 mil­lion in leg­isla­tive fund­ing for the Kupuna Care­givers pro­gram to pro­vide up to $70 a day in ser­vices for se­niors in Hawaii.

The mo­men­tum for the pro­gram has grown from a year ago when leg­is­la­tors al­lot­ted just $600,000, es­ti­mated to help be­tween 50 and 135 care­givers statewide.

The House Health & Hu­man Ser­vices Com­mit­tee ap­proved Tues­day $2 mil­lion in House Bill 1912, while Se­nate Bill 2988 would pro­vide dou­ble that amount. With $2 mil­lion, an es­ti­mated 300 care­givers could get help to cover the costs of adult day care, chore and home­maker ser­vices, home-de­liv­ered meals, per­sonal and respite care, and trans­porta­tion.

So far 1,170 peo­ple have called about the pro­gram, ac­cord­ing to AARP Hawaii.

There are 154,000 un­paid fam­ily care­givers in the is­lands, many of whom are tak­ing care of their aging par­ents, spouse or other rel­a­tives while strug­gling to stay in the work­force.

Irene Martin, a 30-yearold Univer­sity of Hawaii mas­ter’s de­gree stu­dent who works part time as a nurs­ing home so­cial worker, jug­gles moth­er­hood with two ba­bies and care­giv­ing for her par­ents, a duty she took on at 14 years old.

Her 62-year-old father is legally blind and also suf­fers from de­men­tia, while her mother, 65, has mul­ti­ple con­di­tions in­clud­ing lu­pus, rheuma­toid arthri­tis and sco­l­io­sis. Martin’s two daugh­ters are 3 months and 21 months old.

“I try my best to put my per­sonal emo­tions and needs sec­ondary and put my par­ents and chil­dren first, so there’s a lot of care­giver stress. It’s not easy,” she said. “There’s a lot of times where it’s very emo­tional, it’s very frus­trat­ing. We just do it be­cause it’s our fam­ily and there’s no other way. I couldn’t fathom putting my par­ents into a care fa­cil­ity. For me and my Latino her­itage, that’s not an op­tion for us.”

Cyn­thia Goto, a re­tired OB-GYN, is a 15-year care­giver for her 86-year-old mother and 96-year-old bedrid­den father who has been in and out of hospice for 2-1/2 years. The el­derly cou­ple’s match­ing hos­pi­tal beds are in the same room over­look­ing a Ja­panese gar­den her father built.

“A lot of peo­ple, as they age, wish to age in place so the fam­i­lies try to help them. It’s nice that we’ve been able to keep them at home,” she said. “Our cul­ture in Hawaii has al­ways fo­cused on the fam­ily and we’re just try­ing to do the best we can with the re­sources we have. A lit­tle help would go a long way.”

AARP Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Bar­bara Kim Stan­ton said the Kupuna Care­givers bill is the first in the na­tion to help the work­ing care­giver and is most ben­e­fi­cial for women. About 70 per­cent of care­givers have to make work ac­com­mo­da­tions and about 20 per­cent of them end up leav­ing the work­force, she said.

“Women care­givers in par­tic­u­lar risk their fi­nan­cial fu­ture. This will help them not re­tire into poverty,” she said. “Now there is a safety net and as long as we get the fund­ing, this will mean that our lo­cal fam­ily care­givers will have more se­cu­rity.”

De­mand is grow­ing along with the aging pop­u­la­tion.

“There is a lot of peo­ple who need this. When you’re look­ing at the longevity of women in Hawaii … 1 out of 5 even­tu­ally are forced to leave the work­force,” she said, ad­ding that they could lose an es­ti­mated $304,000 in wages and ben­e­fits over their life­time. “That’s why this kupuna care­giver bill and fund­ing it suf­fi­ciently is re­ally crit­i­cal.”

Rep. Gregg Takayama

(D, Pearl City) said this is­sue even­tu­ally will af­fect every­one in Hawaii.

“It af­fects vir­tu­ally ev­ery one of us. We can be as­sured that if you aren’t al­ready a fam­ily care­giver for a kupuna, that you prob­a­bly will one day be one. If you’re not al­ready re­ceiv­ing care, one day you will,” he said. “We have the long­est life­span in Hawaii. That vir­tu­ally en­sures that care­giv­ing will be a vi­tal part of our state for many years to come.”

There’s a lot of times where it’s very emo­tional, it’s very frus­trat­ing. We just do it be­cause it’s our fam­ily and there’s no other way. I couldn’t fathom putting my par­ents into a care fa­cil­ity.”

Irene Martin A stu­dent, part-time so­cial worker and mother of two who also jug­gles care­giv­ing for her aging par­ents

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