By Brodie Lockard
Originally published by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, October 16, 2016

I am paralyzed below the shoulders and require 24-hour care.

I have been this way since a gymnastics accident more than 35 years ago.

Thanks to round-the-clock care, I was able to complete graduate school and build a successful professional life.

I have been active in supporting causes that serve the greater good.

I volunteered for years with CompuMentor, Clean Elections Hawaii and the local library, and spent one school year tutoring first-graders.

As founder of the Hawaii chapter of 350.org and a board member of Common Cause, I was able to engage in real, meaningful work.

It was enormously gratifying to be part of the effort by the Divest UH coalition to get the University of Hawaii to divest from fossil fuels in recognition of the peril they represent to the planet.

And I joined with hundreds of others in Hawaii who demonstrated for, and celebrated, the signing of the historic Paris agreement to combat climate change.

I describe all of this to paint a picture of the life I have been able to live despite my disability.

I have had the means to pay for the constant care that makes everything I do possible and allows me to be a contributing member of the community.

But the challenge has been real and the financial burden keeps growing.

This month I face essential surgery to enable me to breathe more easily. I may need a registered nurse to help with care after my surgery. It will cost as much as $75 an hour to engage a registered nurse. Who can afford this?

My very simple question to our representatives as we anticipate the next legislative session is: Where do people like me figure on your list of priorities?

I was at a town hall earlier this year that discussed the idea of legislating some kind of financial assistance for families of the elderly and the disabled who need help with their most basic daily needs.

I heard very good arguments for why this made sense.

I heard people tell moving stories about the struggle of managing careers while caring for loved ones confined to the home.

I heard skilled professionals describe giving up satisfying careers because they simply could not pursue a career and at the same time give their parents or partners the care they needed.

In doing so, they forfeited earnings during what was often the most financially lucrative periods of their career. They also lost the capacity to save for their own later years.

And businesses lost experienced employees.

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?

Will they start to take the first step toward addressing the reality of growing numbers of elders needing help with in-home care the same way we have taken first steps at the University of Hawaii toward addressing climate change?

Nothing will be solved overnight. But we need to acknowledge that there is a challenge to be met and begin to address it in some way, no matter how modest.

We cannot deny the demographic realities of Hawaii any more than we can deny climate change.

I ask our legislators to make assistance to the elderly and the disabled who need home care a priority.

I would certainly welcome any help that will allow me to keep doing my part to help build a better Hawaii.

Brodie Lockard is a computer programmer and GUI (graphical user interface) designer. He founded the Hawaii chapter of 350.org, and serves of the board of Common Cause Hawaii.

Read this piece on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser website.