Hawaii residents struggle with long-term healthcare

Laurie Kaneshiro
Laurie Kaneshiro
Stuart Ho
Stuart Ho

By Teri Okita – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – November is National Family Caregiver Month.

Laurie Kaneshiro is your typical Hawaii caregiver. The 57 year old is college-educated, raised a family, worked full-time as an interior designer, and for three years, spent 20 to 30 hours a week providing care to her 84 year old mother, Yukie Kuwahara - who suffers from Parkinson's disease

"I had no idea how hard it was," says Kaneshiro about her caretaking duties.

She faced some difficult decisions as Yukie aged. "I had to eventually quit my job because I would leave her home and when I'd come home, I didn't know what she ate all day. I wasn't sure if she'd fallen down, explains Kaneshiro.

They remodeled their home to accommodate Yukie, sought help from Medicaid and Medicare, and hired a day nurse before Kaneshiro eventually quit work. It took a financial and emotional toll.

Kaneshiro is not alone. It's happening in families all across the islands, and the challenges are likely to get worse in Hawaii - as baby boomers age and the number of younger adults who'll take care of them declines.

Without family support, seniors may have to turn to nursing or care homes - many which are at-capacity and expensive. AARP Hawaii says the average, annual nursing home care runs $100,000. To have a nursing aide "in" your home will run about $50,000 and don't count on federal programs to pick up the tab.

"30% of our members felt, believed, that Medicare was going to take care of their long-term needs. Wrong. Absolutely wrong," says AARP Hawaii State President, Stuart Ho.

AARP advises residents to invest in long-term care insurance while you're still young - and it's still affordable. Ho says, "The biggest obstacle is that ordinary people in Hawaii do not save. They don't buy, by in large, long-term health care insurance."

In the next decade, more than a quarter of Hawaii's population will be 60+, and more than 42,000 residents will be over age 85.

Back at Kaneshiro's house, she asks "Can you hold your head up? Your head's kind of going back," as she spoon-feeds her mother.

This past week, Kaneshiro made the emotional decision to move her mother to Leahi hospital - a couple of blocks from their Kaimuki home. She visits her mother daily.

"It's hard because you want to remember how she was before," says Kaneshiro.

She adds: the most stressful part is not knowing what's next for Yukie and the family. And like so many others, without complaining, she just continues to do the best she can for her beloved mother.

For more information on long-term health planning, you can go on the AARP.org website for a resource guide entitled, "Planning for Long-Term Care". Also, the Aging and Disability Resource Center has important phone numbers for you regarding everything from family services, food delivery, parks and recreation, and more. Check out HawaiiADRC.org.

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