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AARP Updates Caregivers on Kupuna Bills Passed This Legislative Session

Wayne Yoshioka

AARP Hawai’i is conducting Caregiver Workshops throughout the state this summer.  HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka visited one of the sessions and filed this report.

“Caregiving is extremely demanding.  There’s an emotional component, mental, physical, financial issues that you’re dealing with.  And then when you add a job to that, it can be quite overwhelming.”

Lynn Moku is one of the estimated154-thousand unpaid family caregivers in Hawai’i.  She left the workforce to care for her husband full-time.

“I just felt that I was so burnt out from trying to juggle with very little balance in my life.  You know, by the end of the day, there wasn’t anything left for me or for him, also.”

The State Legislature passed House Bill 607, the Kupuna Caregiver Bill, to help people like Lynn stay in the workforce.  Audrey Suga-Nakagawa is the Advocacy Director for AARP.

“It’s a model bill for this country.  It started off with just $600-thousand -- a very modest budget -- but it’s really for the planning.  And what this bill hopes to do is provide at least $70 a day person so that they can purchase adult day care or in-home services.  There’s a second part to this and so this program will need to go back to the legislature    next year to ask for additional funding to really do the full implementation.”

The bill is not on the Governor’s veto list.  Suga-Nakagawa also took the opportunity to criticize and oppose the Senate’s draft of the American Health Care Act, the replacement for Obamacare.  She says the Republican Majority’s proposal, if passed in its current version, includes an age tax for older Americans, 50-64.

“So if this person had to buy their own health insurance plan – not by  their employer --  their own health insurance plan because they’re self-employed, they lost a job or they quit early on or retired early on because they had to take care of a loved one, they will be expected to at least $3-thousand to $6-thousand more a year for their health care benefit.”

Suga-Nakagawa says Hawai’i has 268-thousand residents between the ages of 50 and 64.   State lawmakers are also funding Aging and Disability Resource Centers in all 4 counties with $1.7 million, plus expansion of the long term care ombudsman’s office.  One bedrock program for the elderly was also passed.

“The Kupuna Care Program which has been in existence for over 9 years, provides respite services.  Many of the organizations like Catholic Charities are providing transportation, meals, bathing services, homecare services to help our families who really need the additional assistance.  And that bill got an additional $4.1 million.  It’s waiting for the governor’s signature.”

Meanwhile, family caregiver Moku plans to return to the workforce on a part-time basis in the near future.  She encourages seniors to voice their concerns.

“You know, we live in a society where we’re somewhat passive and we don’t share a lot of information with the public or even with legislators but you need to self-advocate.  And you need to tell your legislators what you need.  You have a voice and you have to fight for what you need.”

For more information on upcoming Caregiver Workshops, go to AARP State Events Hawaii.  Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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