By the Rev. Samuel L. Domingo
Caring for our community means something different in Hawaii than it does anywhere else in the country.
We know the value of family and community, and the important role our elders play in both.
Leviticus 19:32 tells us: “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 God expects us to do that.
When given the choice, 90 percent of people over age 65 prefer the notion of staying home to receive care rather than moving to a facility.
Family members are often incredible caregivers, but providing that care creates financial and emotional stress. Supporting home caregiving means Hawaii can honor the wishes of our seniors, as well as help caregiving families who work so hard to keep their loved ones at home safely.
Every eight seconds, someone in the country turns 65 years old. As U.S. demographics shift, Hawaii’s population is aging even more rapidly, and living longer than mainland counterparts.
According to the February 2014 “State of Hawai‘i Healthcare Innovation Plan,” the number of residents over age 60 has increased 300 percent since statehood. As the demographic makeup of our state changes, we need to change the way we provide care for older residents. We need a long-term plan for long-term care.
In 2016, Hawaii’s legislators will have a chance to create a new piece of care infrastructure for our state: access to a certain amount of resources each day for a year to assist in paying for in-home care through the creation of a long-term care benefits trust fund.
This fund isn’t meant to cover a stay in a long-term care facility like a nursing home or assisted living. It’s meant to help family caregivers give their loved ones successful long-term care at home, by helping them to hire companion care or invest in equipment like walkers and ramps.
In my church, many find themselves caring for loved ones at home, and paying for that out of their own pockets. Senate Bill 727 would ensure a long-term care benefit of $70 per day for 365 days and establish a “care floor,” ensuring that everyone could access basic resources to provide care at home.
As a state, we need to pull together to address that cost, so that all of us can help our elders enjoy their senior years at home with their families.
Our church has a very active ministry for the elderly. Members who are part of the Alzheimer’s group or the Senior Day Care Program know how important it is to be able to keep their family members at home. I am one of them: my in-laws live with my family; my father-in-law is in hospice care, and we had to bring help into our home to assist in his care. We know the enormous amount of work it takes to keep our loved ones at home with us, as well as the cost; $70 a day for a year would go very far in helping us and many other caregiving families manage those costs.
Hawaii’s leadership on this issue is tied directly to our cultural understandings of the role of elders in our communities and the importance of shared responsibility; it is our kuleana.
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.
Caring for our elderly is a privilege. There is no more important social issue than for us to champion care for our elders. We should embrace every opportunity to support efforts to help caregiving families. As the old saying goes, “A burden shared is a burden halved.”