Like Childcare, Senior Care Should Be in the Mix of Government Funding Priorities, Keep Funding Kupuna Caregivers Program

Both nationally and locally, there have been increased talks over providing government subsidies for childcare programs. Given the average cost of childcare in the U.S. at about $12 – $25.00 per hour, it’s financially difficult for lower waged income earners, particularly single parents, to work and pay for childcare at the same time.

Similarly, what needs to be given more attention is possible government assistance for senior care that two-income household adults are also struggling with. The average cost for senior care is even higher than childcare. It is generally between $23-$25.00 per hour.

The Senior Caregiving dilemma
In 2018, the state of Hawaii passed the Kupuna Caregivers Program (KCGP) which offers employed Hawaii residents who are also unpaid primary caregivers to receive some government assistance to care for their senior kupuna at home. The purpose of the program is to enable working adults to continue working and use that government benefit to go toward hiring a primary caregiver for their senior parent(s) or relative.

Besides adult care, KCGP also helps costs of services like transportation, home-delivered meals, homemaker services, personal care and respite care.

This is a much-needed program and helps many families in the state. But many say it alleviates only part of the expenses and only covers about three days of adult care.

Caring for senior parent(s) relative unpaid.
Still, some are unable to afford the high cost of senior care (even with the Kupuna Caregivers Program) and must give up their job to care for their senior loved ones, unpaid.

Shortage of professional help to care for seniors at home.
Then some might be able to afford to pay for private professional care but due to the high demand for long-term care in the state, there is a shortage of certified nursing assistants and home health aides and other professionals to care for their senior parents.

A 2019 Healthcare Association of Hawaii survey found that healthcare providers had 417 open positions for certified nursing assistants, clinical assistants and nurse aides, 51 open positions for home health aides, 35 open positions for personal care assistants, and 463 open positions for registered nurses.

It’s important to emphasize that senior care is not just about finding quality care for our kupuna. But senior care affects the entire family from primary income earners in a household to their children.

Assisted Living Facilities (ALF) and Adult Residential Care Homes
For the highest income earners, Hawaii has two major types of senior care facilities: Assisted Living Facilities (ALF) and Adult Residential Care Homes.

ALF are usually a building complex with dwelling units or individual apartment-style rooms where seniors who need little assistance are provided meals and 24 hours a day services. It’s independent living for seniors and great for seniors to be in a social environment.

Adult residential care home is very familiar to our Filipino community with many of us being in that industry of caring for seniors. An adult residential care home is as its name, a home in a residential district that provides care for seniors 24 hours a day. An adult residential care home usually has between 1-5 seniors, and care ranges from assisting those who are very independent to those needing major assistance.

Both types of senior care facilities/homes are even more costly than hiring a primary care professional to watch over a senior parent.

Both senior care facilities/homes are usually options for seniors requiring some level of monitoring like a senior suffering from Alzheimer’s or senior needing help with eating and bathing. Those in the senior care industry refer to this as seniors with “self-care difficulty,” which is defined as having a physical or mental health condition for at least six months that makes it difficult to care for your personal needs.

The greater the need, usually the costlier it gets for the family.

Typically, seniors at ALFs have several children who tend to be higher income earners (and busy with careers) who all contribute to their parents’ care and/or these seniors have sufficiently prepared for their own retirement and pay for their stay at ALFs with their own income. The same holds true for adult residential care homes.

Ohana, multigenerational lifestyle
If at all possible, most Hawaii seniors would rather stay at their own homes for as long as possible. Culturally, for Asian and Pacific Islander families, multigenerational dwellings make this possible for seniors. This setup provides multiple incomes and the possibility is higher for at least one adult to look over the family kupuna.

Prepare for retirement
With so many urgent needs facing our state, it’s difficult to prioritize all of our population’s needs. Hawaii at least has a program like the Kupuna Caregivers Program – something that’s very unique and unavailable for most senior Americans living in other states.

Given the high cost of living in our state and the diminishing retirement benefits companies are offering today, it’s easier said than done to advise Hawaii residents to prepare for retirement, and to save as much money as possible to assist them in their golden years.

But we can try to do our best in putting money aside. We can continue our cultural Ohana multigenerational living. Seniors can also purchase long-term care insurance. Lawmakers should remain dedicated to funding the Kupuna Caregivers Program, and if possible, look to other means of assisting our seniors and families.

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