Family caregivers to rally for bills
Hundreds are expected to gather at the state Capitol tomorrow to talk to legislators about passing bills for elder care and grandparents who take care of their grandchildren.
The Family Caregiver Awareness Day and Resources Fair is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the third floor. Advocates for seniors will hold a "Hawaii Caregivers Rock Rally" in the courtyard from 1 to 2:30 p.m., with a live remote broadcast by rock station KPOI 105.9.
At least one of every four Hawaii residents is expected to be 60 or older by 2020, points out Lyn Moku, Hawaii Division manager of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and chairwoman of the Faces of Family Caregiving Campaign.
"Compounded by the shortage of care providers in Hawaii, family caregiving is an increasingly critical element of our health and long-term care system," she said.
"We have to do something now. We are all, or shortly will be, affected by caregiver issues -- and very few of us are prepared for the future that awaits us."
The Hawaii Family Caregiver Coalition's key measure is Senate Bill 2830, with a number of provisions to assist caregiving families, including development of a "cash and counseling project" that allows recipients of Medicaid personal care services or home- and community-based services to receive a flexible monthly allowance and decide whom to hire and what services to receive.
Caregivers also support House Bill 2520 to allow eligible employees to collect up to four weeks of temporary disability benefits to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Employers oppose it as too costly.
The Caregiver Coalition represents more than 30 organizations and focuses on two groups -- an estimated 190,000 residents who care for older adults and about 14,000 grandparents who care for 33,000 grandchildren, said Wes Lum, with the University of Hawaii Center on Aging.
Helen Wagner said she became aware of problems of grandparents caring for grandchildren when she began caring for her 12-year-old granddaughter when she was a baby. "I realized we (grandparents) have no rights."
She became active with Na Tutu, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, and is vice president of the Hawaii Association of Families Educating the Community.
She cites many grandparent issues that need legislative attention, such as the eviction of people in senior housing when there is a family crisis and children have to live with them. Some centers established 90-day passes to give families time to resolve the situation, she said. "It's in the works for legislation to pass."
Na Tutu also advocates a tax credit or tax break for families who have to fence their yard, add a bedroom or make other household changes to care for grandchildren, she said.
Problems such as "medication money going to soccer balls or children's needs and having to go without" not only affect family finances, but the health of grandparents, she said.
Among other measures:
» SB 2730 and HB 2707 ask the Department of Human Services to give preference to a child's grandparents if out-of-home placement is being considered.
» SB 2731 and HB 2708 allow a children's grandparent to participate at certain child protective hearings, as well as foster parents.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Lyn Moku is chairwoman of the Faces of Family Caregiving Campaign. She was incorrectly identified as chairwoman of the Kokua Council in this story. Larry Geller is Kokua Council president.