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Caregivers Take Center Stage at Capitol Event

On any given day in Hawaii, up to 169,000 family caregivers help elderly loved ones with everyday tasks such as bathing, eating, dressing, and providing transportation—quietly and without fanfare.  More than 14,000 grandparents in the state are raising their grandchildren.  

On February 26 a Family Caregiver Awareness Day and Resource Fair was held at the State Capitol to give legislators and the general public a chance to learn more about caregivers and the issues they confront on a daily basis.  Presented by the Hawaii Family Caregiver Coalition, the event gave legislators a first-hand view of informal caregiver issues and challenges.  More than 50 exhibitors showcased products and services that help caregivers assist the frail elderly and persons with disabilities.  

“Family caregivers provide a range of services—everything from personal hygiene to meal preparation to managing finances of their elders,” said Jackie Boland, associate state director of AARP Hawaii and board member of the Hawaii Family Caregiver Coalition.  “This event recognized the needs and contributions of caregivers in Hawaii and gave legislators a better understanding of the support they need to take care of their friends and loved ones.”

Family caregivers are the backbone of Hawaii’s long-term care system.  The economic value of the unpaid services they provide is estimated at $1.45 billion annually.  The role of caregivers is especially significant given the prohibitively high cost of nursing care in Hawaii and the fact that most people will require some form of elder care assistance at some point in their lives.  According to national figures, two-thirds of 65-year-olds (69 percent) will need some long-term care as they get older.

Grandparents serve as caregivers too.  In Hawaii, providing care for grandchildren is a cultural norm for many of our resident grandparents—one that they gladly accept.  However, those whose family circumstances force them to assume primary responsibility for raising their grandchildren often encounter challenges.  “Many grandparents raising grandchildren have trouble making ends meet.  And, they often they come up against barriers – like accessing health care for their grandchildren, registering them for school, or even staying in their home if they live in housing that is designated for seniors only,” said Jackie Chong, president of the NaTutu Coalition, a member organization of the Hawaii Family Caregiver Coalition.

As the number of people age 65 and older nearly doubles over the next two decades, greater pressure will fall on Hawaii caregivers—many of whom struggle with the physical, emotional and financial challenges of caregiving.  The ‘typical’ elder caregiver is a 46-year-old female who is employed outside the home and spends more than 20 hours per week caring for her mother.  One in six of these caregivers say their health is fair or poor.  In addition, family caregivers frequently report having trouble finding time for themselves, balancing work and family responsibilities, and managing stress.

AARP is involved in ongoing advocacy for caregiver resources and support.  To join these efforts as a volunteer or share a story, contact Jackie Boland at 808-545-6003.

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