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Commission Finds Hawaii Residents Unprepared for Long-Term Care

Most Hawaii residents are ill-prepared to meet either their own long-term care or the needs of their aging loved ones. This is among the top findings of a report the Long-Term Care Commission delivered to the state Legislature in March. The Commission was established in 2008 with the passage of Act 224.

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Its mission is to assess the strengths, weakness and limitations of Hawaii’s long-term care system and make recommendations for reform to the Legislature in 2012. In the first phase of its work, just completed, the Commission identified problems with the state’s current long-term care capacity, programs and services. It also found both residents and state government ill prepared to meet the growing elder-care needs of Hawaii’s aging population.

“Hawaii’s people have not put aside sufficient savings to deal with the risks of aging, and that’s something that could come back to haunt all of us,” said Long-Term Care Commission Chair Stuart Ho, who also serves as State President of AARP Hawaii. “Most of our residents are both dangerously unaware of and woefully unprepared for the looming financial costs associated with long-term care. The problem is compounded by state government’s fragmented management of the current system, which leaves families confused about what services are available to them.”

The aging of Hawaii’s population will put enormous pressure on families, existing nursing and adult care facilities, as well as the state budget in the next two decades. Yet the Commission finds that most residents—and state government itself—are unprepared to cope with the rising wave in demand for long-term care services that experts see coming. Meanwhile, families may be shocked to learn that Hawaii nursing home costs are among the highest in the country and our care institutions are already at full capacity. Without reforms, an increased burden will fall on the shoulders of family caregivers, who provide the bulk of elder-care services – at great physical, emotional and financial risk.

The state budget will be tested as well. According to the report, the state Medicaid program already spends over $500 million annually on long-term care services for fewer than 9,000 people over the age of 65. The state’s share of those Medicaid costs exceeds $250 million.

A good long-term care system would assure that high-quality, cost-effective care is available to all Hawaii residents – including programs and services accessible in homes and communities where most residents say they want to be as they age. The Commission has adopted a number of reform goals to guide the next phase of its work this year, including:

Increase public awareness of long-term care through education.

Improve access to long-term care services.

Make Hawaii’s long-term care system more responsive to consumers.

Protect against catastrophic out-of-pocket costs.

Design an effective and affordable system, both to individuals and the government.

Prevent dependence on welfare in the form of Medicaid.

Find more information about the Long-Term Care Commission or read the report online.

Volunteers interested in joining AARP Hawaii’s long-term care public awareness efforts in 2011 are encouraged to call the state office at 808-545-6006.

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