Lawmakers in Hawaii last week took a giant step forward in supporting the state’s aging population and the people who care for them.
Hawaii has one of the fastest-growing aging populations in the country, and as is the case in every state, many are being cared for by relatives who are also struggling to keep a job.
Hawaii’s Kupuna Caregivers Act, signed by the state’s governor on July 11, offers unpaid family caregivers up to $70 per day to help ease the stress and financial burden that can result from caring for an aging loved one. The money can be used to help pay for care, meals, transportation, or to provide respite for the caregiver. It might free up money for housekeeping service, leaving more time for the caregiver to attend to their loved one. Or the money could cover the cost of a few hours of home care, making it less stressful for the caregiver to put in a full day at work.
It’s a fact that people who are caring for aging parents and grandparents often fail to pay attention to their own needs. Stress, lack of exercise and poor eating habits can result, leading to depression and a host of physical problems – some of which may leave the caregiver in need of care themselves.
This is an important first step toward better health for both the kupuna, as elderly loved ones are called in Hawaii, and their caregivers. In passing this law, Hawaii is setting an example that other states should consider.
The Kupuna Caregivers Act provides an initial $600,000 to get the program started. Obviously, more money is needed, and although the state still has to determine how to fund this ongoing effort, the fact that they recognize the importance of family caregivers and those they care for is a step in the right direction.