Isles struggle with senior care
The high cost forces some in Hawaii to alter their lifestyles to give in-home care
More Hawaii residents are caring for their aging parents because the cost of nursing homes has become prohibitive -- averaging $250 per day, or about $73,000 per year.
The AARP, which formerly stood for the American Association of Retired Persons, is sponsoring caregiving workshops throughout the state in June. For more information, call Communications Director Bruce Bottorf at 545-6006.
Two-thirds of those surveyed Feb. 22-27 by the AARP believe the cost of long-term care -- in or out of a nursing home -- should be shared by the government.
By taking on the full-time job of caregiving in her own home, Jody Mishan of Manoa has put aside her own needs to give her 90-year-old father the love and attention he requires. But the cost has taken its toll in the drastic deterioration of her own lifestyle and financial well-being.
Former Navy Capt. John Mishan suffers from severe Alzheimer's disease. Over the past seven years, he has had a series of ministrokes and severe respiratory illnesses. Because he cannot walk or do anything for himself, Jody Mishan uses body-lifts to transfer him from chairs or his bed.
"He is fragile as a butterfly," said Jody Mishan, who has been his primary caregiver for seven years.
"I can't work. I'm tired (averaging four hours of sleep a day)," she said. Financially, "we inch by every month," even with the help of his Navy pension, disability insurance and Social Security. Her $2,500 monthly rent and paying caregivers to help her at home eat up most of her budget.
Emotionally and physically, Mishan is hanging on by a thread and prays that God will help her "survive this." To make matters worse, a current rental disagreement with her landlord has brought "this house of toothpicks (her difficult situation) right down."
"My goal is to keep him as content as possible so he can die peacefully. It would be traumatic to put him in a nursing home. ... Any major move (or change) would. He could catch a cold or die."
Even if Mishan could afford a nursing home, she is reluctant to put him in one because he would not get the one-on-one care he needs or the affection she gives him throughout the day.
Mishan said that it is a "rental nightmare" to find wheelchair-accessible houses with wide doorways and hallways, and no stairs, so moving is something she desperately wants to avoid.
According to the AARP survey, people over 60 make up 17 percent of Hawaii's population, but the number will climb to 25 percent by 2020. Hawaii residents also outlive people in other states by an average of four years, with residents over 75 and over 85 among the fastest-growing segments of the isles' population.
A quarter of those surveyed said they or a family member needed care in the last five years, and two in five said it is likely that they or someone in their family will need long-term care in the next five years. More than a quarter said they were willing to contribute $20 to a long-term care state plan, and two-thirds said they would pay $10 a month toward one.
Retired teacher Gail Imai said, "Most of our friends are either in one (a nursing home) or soon will be."
Her husband, Eugene Imai, said, "We both have long-term care insurance, but it by no means covers all costs. ... It's a difficult decision to make -- insurance is not cheap, and we don't know if we will die before we need it. There is a need for support from the government."
The Imais took responsibility for the care of his parents over a 10-year period, most of which was spent in nursing homes.
The Imais needed to put Eugene's mother in a nursing home from the start when she was disabled in 1992 by a massive stroke. A couple of years later, his father came down with Alzheimer's disease, and Gail Imai took leave without pay to stay home with him.
They also enrolled him in a day-care center, but when he started wandering, they had to put him in the same nursing home Eugene's mother was in.
With his father residing there for only two years before he died, the cost for both of them in Hale Nani from 1992 to 2001 was $700,000, Eugene Imai said. His father qualified for Medicaid, but he did not believe in using government funds.
"We had to tap into all the investments (my father) worked so hard to build up," he said.