Program that helps cover costs of kupuna care faces uncertain future

Program that helps cover costs of kupuna care faces uncertain future

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The future of a program that helps families care for their kupuna is in limbo as funding runs dry. Now, advocates are urging legislators to take action.

Money for the Kupuna Caregiver Program will run out in June.

Families say the program is an essential one that should be funded.

For Iris Yafuso Toguchi, close doesn’t begin to describe the relationship she has with her mother Irene.

“For my mom, I would do anything," she said.

So when the 86-year-old was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the decision was made to close the family bakery so she could become her 24-hour caregiver.

It was a job that quickly consumed her both emotionally and financially until she learned about the Kupuna Caregivers Program, which helped foot the bill for adult daycare.

“At that point I was able to go back to work. So it was a win-win situation for both my mom and I,” said Yafuso Toguchi.

Currently the program is at capacity, serving 110 families.

But its future is in jeopardy.

“The program right now provides up to $70 a day in services for people who are working 30 hours or more and also taking care of a kupuna at home,” said Pedro Haro, advocacy director for Caring Across Generations.

On Monday morning, dozens rallied at the state Capitol to urge lawmakers to pass new legislation to keep it going at a cost of $2 million a year. At that funding level, it also could expand.

“We do have a wait list for the program because of the high demand,” said Caroline Cadirao, of the Executive Office on Aging.

While Toguchi waits on a decision, she’s started looking for a second job. She wants to make sure her family is prepared for a worst-case scenario.

“It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be really tough,” she said.

The legislation is set to go before the Finance Committee and the Ways and Means Committee. So far, dates for those hearings have not yet been set.

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