Hawaii Bill Would Fund In-Home Care for Seniors

As the nation faces a potential caregiver crisis with millions of older Americans heading into retirement, one state is leading the charge to support family members with paid in-home care.

A bill that would provide up to $70 per day to cover the costs for many in-home care services to families in Hawaii awaits the Governor’s signature, after being approved in both state houses of Congress in May.

The legislation is reflective of Hawaiian culture, according to a recent article from Slate. The Hawaiian word for seniors is “kupuna,” and is used like the word elder or grandparent, but also comes with the connotation of wisdom and experience, according to Slate. Hawaiian culture also dictates that families take care of their elderly members, and the potential aid in the bill could provide much-needed help as residents age in place.

“If children already live in Hawaii, they often have to quit their jobs to stay at home to care for aging parents, which may result in financial disaster for the family and a loss of tax revenue of the state,” the House version of the bill reads.

The bill would address some of these concerns by providing funding for elderly residents not living in a senior care facility who need help with at least two activities of daily living. A family caregiver must work at least 30 hours per week for one or more employers to be eligible for the program, the Kupuna Caregivers Program.

“It’s an important step toward meeting the needs of a fast-aging population and the family members who are expected—but too often financially unequipped—to shoulder the burden,” the article reads.

If signed into law, the legislation will provide financial support for Hawaii’s kupuna and ease some of the burdens specific to the islands. The state’s population faces a few realities that can making aging in paradise more expensive and complicated.

For one, Hawaiian residents tend to live longer than their counterparts in other states, with an average lifespan of 82. By 2030, 23% of the state’s population will be 65 and older, according to the bill. Not to mention, living in Hawaii is costlier than living in the continental U.S., and nursing home costs are about 50% higher, Slate reported.

With just the higher cost of living, families may have a harder time making ends meet and those who end up caring for elderly parents and grandparents are likely to be ever more burdened. About one-third of adults between the ages of 45 and 70 in Hawaii care for an aging person in their home, according to a poll by Caring Across Generations.

The funding would enable elderly Hawaiians to remain in their homes and communities as they age, according to the bill. If Hawaiian Gov. David Ige signs the legislation into law, the program could become an example to admire for other states, according to advocates quoted by Slate.

Written by Amy Baxter