The term “kupuna” in Hawaiian translates roughly to elder, or grandparent, or simply an older person held in high esteem. A new state program puts money behind Hawaii’s commitment to its older generations, and to the family members caring for loved ones in their later years.
Eleanor Thommes and her sister have reorganized their schedules and finances to take care of their 93-year-old mother, Elising Roxas, who needs round-the-clock care.
“A lot of women, especially single women, need to work,” said Ms. Thommes, 63, who lives in Mililani, Hawaii. “But at the same time they have all these responsibilities, to pay the bills, and to caregive. How can they possibly do all of that the same time?”
In Hawaii, senior citizens are kupuna. The Hawaiian word, used in roughly the same way as elder or grandparent, denotes reverence for experience and wisdom. Throughout history, Hawaiian culture has placed a high value on children and grandchildren caring for their kupuna, helping them age with dignity in their own homes and communities.
Every state should emulate Hawaii, not only in its opposition to exclusion and division, but also in envisioning the future.
In advocating for caregivers and our elders, I’m usually met with tremendous resistance. Even though the data tells us that we are an aging nation with ever-increasing caregiving needs, it is difficult to get traction with lawmakers. Not in Hawaii. In Hawaii, families prioritize caring for kupuna. There is broad agreement that caring is an important part of family life, and should be supported by public policy.
I can only imagine the relief, and gratitude, I would have felt had a resource like the Hawaii Kupuna Caregivers program been available back in my caregiving days. Legislators now have the chance to make the resource a reality for those who have succeeded me. And who knows when I will assume the role of caregivee instead of caregiver?
It is good news that the kupuna caregivers assistance bill — Senate Bill 534/House Bill 607 — has made it through the budget committees of the state Senate and House.
This session, policymakers will have the opportunity to do something important for Hawaii’s seniors, the families who care for them and the burgeoning costs our state must assume for the long-term care needs of the aging baby boomer population advancing to retirement.
Well, Hawaii, we’re not getting any younger.
According to state data, by 2020, most of the baby boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964 — will have celebrated their 60th birthday. By then, it’s projected that about one-quarter of the state’s population will be age 60 or older. Demographers say that as a state, we’re aging more rapidly and living longer than any other state.
Having some financial aid would have allowed him to get some respite before having to turn to a care home, and that’s why Mitchell is urging state lawmakers to pass the proposed kupuna caregivers assistance bill.
Mitchell was among several people sharing heart-rending testimonies at the rally in support of companion bills in the House and Senate (SB 534/HB 607). The gathering was organized by Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE), AARP and other groups in partnership with the national nonprofit Caring Across Generations.
Activist rallied at the Hawaii State Capitol on Tuesday hoping lawmakers will find a way to ease the burden of caregivers across the state.
A bill being pitched would provide money vouchers for families to pay for trained caregivers.
I was honored to be present on the Senate floor as a guest of Sen. Michelle Kidani during the opening day ceremonies at the state Legislature this year and watch her election as vice president. It was also heartening to read in the program for the day the Senate’s affirmation of its commitment to Ola Lehulehu –People and Communities.
I watch my parents with a deep sadness as the sun sets on their long and useful lives. My mother, 85, once a nurse, has just joined my father, 95, once a doctor, on the terrible journey with Alzheimer’s. I used to be a partner in my father’s OB/GYN practice. Now I am a partner in helping my parents manage the pain of their decline. I feel lucky that as a doctor, I can make a significant contribution to overseeing their care.
After a lifetime working for a stronger, more compassionate community, I’ve just retired.
The issues I have championed have never been directly self-serving. But now, I am part of a huge and growing group of senior citizens. Our needs are different, often urgent, generally expensive and not easily met.
Our story of caring for a loved one at home is not unique. My mother-in-law, Florence Yasuda, was living on her own, doing her own cooking, cleaning, laundry and yardwork and she walked or took the bus to do her shopping. But in September 2011 Florence, then 93, fell while sweeping her driveway, breaking her upper arm.
Biff and Mimi are both healthy adults who continue to be busy, contributing members of the community and are active in a variety of business and nonprofit organizations. They believe public long term care assistance can be helpful to both workers and the organizations that employ them as it could help retain experienced employees who might otherwise leave to take care of family members. This conversation offers some insight into how two successful business people view long term care as it has affected them and people close to them. Biff and Mimi also reflect on their own search for good solutions to their own long term care needs and the need for public policy solutions to a looming challenge.
We in Hawaii place enormous importance on family and on caring for our parents, our children, and the most vulnerable among us. Yet, economic realities often force people to put a parent in a nursing home, in an environment many of us would not want for ourselves, so that they do not have to leave the workforce and can keep working to provide for their families.
I keep reading about the blessing of longevity in Hawaii. Without the means to meet basic needs, that blessing can turn into a terrible burden. Not everyone can afford to buy private long-term care insurance. We need a publicly funded safety net. Will our representatives match their expressions of reverence for kupuna and their declarations of caring for keiki with solid legislative action?
We, the undersigned clergy, are writing to express our support for Senate Bill 2478 and House Bill 1885, legislation that would create a public statewide long-term care program in Hawai`i. As people of faith, we are motivated by our firm belief in society’s collective responsibility to care for one another. Leviticus 19:32 tells us directly: “Rise in the presence of the aged and honor the elderly face-to-face!” There is a moral imperative in taking care of our elders, and we have a responsibility as a society to make that care accessible and affordable for every family.
Hawaii has the incredible opportunity to be the national leader on innovative public policy to provide assistance to family caregivers. Our policy makers need to recognize their kuleana to help everyone take better care of their loved ones by passing this bill.