Hawaii Becomes First State to Pay Caregivers
July 12, 2017 03:10 PM
The state of Hawaii will give eligible families $70 a day to help pay for home care services for a family member after Governor David Ige (D) signed the Kupuna Caregivers Program into law on July 6.
In the Hawaiian culture, a kupuna is a family elder and the term confers respect and reverence for the elder’s wisdom. The Hawaiian culture strongly emphasizes the responsibility children and grandchildren have in caring for their kupuna and helping them remain in their homes and villages as they grow older and infirm.
The Kupuna Caregivers Program will provide up to $70 a day to people who serve as the primary caregiver to someone, but also work at least 30 hours per week outside the home. The money can be put toward health care, meals, transportation and other home services for their dependents over 60. The program will provide assistance to Hawaiians who do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid home health services.
Everyone who has filed a Hawaii state income form for 10 years would be eligible for the $70 stipend, which could be paid for a total of 365 days. The program would be paid for by a slight increase in the state’s General Excise Tax, which would fall on all businesses’ gross income. About 35 percent of the fund would come from tourists, who pay into the General Excise Tax, but, of course, do not stay to claim the benefit for themselves.
The law provides $600,000 dollars as initial money for the program and advocates will need to go back to the state legislature to ask for more next year.
Advocates for the legislation, who worked for about 21 years to see it passed, say it will enable working caregivers to stay in their jobs, but also pay a fair wage to others in order to get some breaks in the caregiving work.
“This measure is just one more extension of what we believe is fundamentally important to ensure we can take care of our kupuna going forward,” Gov. Ige said at the signing ceremony. “[The program] provides up to $70 per day for transportation services, personal care, respite care and homemaker services to help facilitate and allow our families to take care of their loved ones at home.”
Beth Hoban, a leader in the home health community in Hawaii and natinally, is a caregiver herself, looking after her 93-year-old mother. "It's like having a toddler or a child at home. You have to make the time to make sure you get her prepared make sure her meals are ready," Ms. Hoban told Hawaii News Now.
While caring for her mother, Ms. Hoban runs a full-time home health agency and says the money provided by the Kupuna Caregivers Program will help. It’s really going to be great to be able to afford those options.”
The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) applauds Hawaii for its forward-thinking home care policy. The United States faces a caregiver crisis, with 10,000 people turning 65 every day since 2011 and not enough people to help care for the chronic health problems that will come with the “silver tsunami.”
A 2011 AARP report found that the average caregiver in the U.S. is a 49-year-old woman who has another job outside the home and spends almost 20 hours per week providing unpaid care to a parent over about five years. Two-thirds of family caregivers are women and the report estimated the value of the caregiving work they provide at $450 billion every single year.
Hawaii is an ideal state to take on this challenge first, both because of its aforementioned culture and because of its own demographics. While the nation is aging rapidly, this is an even more acute problem for Hawaii, where the number of senior citizens age 75 or more increased by 116 percent between 1990 and 2012. The comparable number for the United States as a whole was 47 percent. AARP estimates there are about 154,000 unpaid caregivers in Hawaii.
In addition, Hawaii residents live longer than other Americans, an average of 82 years, which means 23 percent of the state will be 65 years or older by 2030. It is also costlier to age in Hawaii, in part because of the price of importing goods and also the price of real estate. A nursing home in Hawaii costs about 50 percent more in Hawaii than on the mainland, according to Slate magazine.
According to a Caring Across Generations poll of Hawaiian adults between the ages of 45 and 70, one-third currently help care for an aging person in their home.
You can watch the bill being signed into law and hear Governor Ige’s remarks by watching this video.