Everyone should have the chance to retire with dignity. It is unacceptable that many of our kupuna are still working, struggling with debt, and/or continue to fork over thousands of dollars each month to pay for eldercare. Too often, the burden spills over to Hawaii’s caregivers, who are sandwiched between fulltime employment and caregiving. As a caregiver to my 83-year-old grandmother, I understand the challenges that many Hawaii families face. On a weekly basis, my mother and I struggle to balance our employment with a demanding caregiving schedule.
To help our kupuna, we need to do the following:
Protect the Kupuna Caregivers Program from budget cuts to provide much needed respite for working caregivers and ultimately expand access to more families.
Protect local hospitals from closing and ensure that they can provide Alzheimer’s and Dementia screenings.
Pass a resolution that calls for a ban robocalls at the federal level. These calls disproportionately prey on the elderly.
Fill the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia Services Coordinator position within the Executive Office on Aging. This office has existed for more than half a decade, but has been left unfunded each year by the Legislature.
Join 37 other states in creating a Silver Alert system to help quickly find kupuna who go missing.
First and foremost, I will champion legislation that protects the Kupuna Caregivers Program from budget cuts. This program supports working family caregivers and keeps kupuna at home with their loved ones. Without this vital support, kupuna would be more likely to find themselves isolated from family and requiring state funding to live in assisted care facilities. Supporting working families through the Kupuna Caregivers Program costs one-tenth as much as sending our kupuna to a home, it is an obvious, moral, and financially-sensible solution.
Furthermore, Kupuna Caregivers only helps working families. In doing so, it provides much needed respite and structure allowing caregivers to remain employed. If anything, I believe that expanding this program can also help our economy recover. Women make up the majority of caregivers, and are bearing the brunt of this economic depression. This can require many of them to drop out of the workforce to support their families at home.
It is essential to look after the health and well-being of our kupuna, so I will do everything I can to protect local hospitals from closing and ensure that they provide Alzheimer's and Dementia screenings. Yes, local public hospitals are in danger of shutting down. In 2016, Wahiawa General Hospital was on the brink of shutting down, and it took grassroots community organizing to secure an agreement with the state to keep the hospital operating. With the skyrocketing price of healthcare amidst this pandemic, we cannot afford to have hospitals shutting down.
I will also propose a resolution that calls for banning robocalls at the federal level. These calls specifically prey on the elderly and are surging in intensity. Robocalls are surging right now, and are bothering people at a much faster pace than consumer advocates can respond and protect our kupuna. This is why the State should pass a resolution urging the federal government to ban robocalls outright. With many of these calls coming from the mainland, only a national response can save our kupuna from financial exploitation.
Alzheimer’s disease is a growing epidemic and is now the nation’s sixth leading cause of death.
Here in Hawaii, more than 29,000 individuals over the age of 65 live with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. Shockingly, there has been a 294% increase in Alzheimer’s deaths in Hawaii since the year 2000. This year Medicaid in Hawaii will expend an incredible $240 million to care for people with Alzheimer’s.
Meanwhile, kupuna and caregivers also pay enormous sums out of pocket with costs expected to skyrocket in coming years.
The position of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia Coordinator was established within
the Executive Office on Aging by Act 214, Session Laws of Hawaii 2013. That year, Hawaii also recognized the public health crisis of Alzheimer’s disease and developed Hawaii 2025: State Plan on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias. Tragically, while the position remains unfilled, insufficient progress is being made towards adopting the recommendations and strategies. This lack of action has contributed to the mounting costs for families and the state government. I will fight to ensure Hawaii begins to implement our Alzheimer’s state plan because it’s the right thing to do both morally and financially.
I support the development and implementation of a statewide Silver Alert System to be activated on behalf of a missing senior citizen with an impaired mental condition in the appropriate county. Thirty-seven states have joined the Silver Alert System, sadly Hawaii is not one of them. A Silver Alert is a public notification system which broadcasts information about missing kupuna with Alzheimer's disease, dementia, or other mental disabilities in order to aid in locating them. Statistics show that wandering kupuna with dementia often suffer a serious injury or death if they are not found within 24 hours. By joining the Silver Alert System, Hawaii will help relieve the many stresses family members experience when a loved one goes missing.
I want every kupuna to retire with dignity after a lifetime or work.
I want our kupuna to have the best healthcare available to them.