Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Friday, August 27, 1999

A reprieve for
full-time care givers

JEANETTE Leau loves going to Las Vegas every other month for a few days of recreational gambling and gadding about. But the 70-year-old Kaneohe resident has a dilemma: While she's away, who will watch her 80-year-old husband, Robert, ailing at home after suffering a stroke?

In the past, Jeanette would hire someone to stay with him at their condo. On her return from Nevada, however, she'd sometimes find things missing and presumably stolen.

In one case, a carefully hidden diamond-studded wristwatch disappeared; in another, the "sitter" loaded up the Leaus' car with household items and pawned them.

Jeanette was ready to end her Nevada adventures -- until she heard about the adult day care, weekend relief and overnight respite services at Palolo Chinese Home (PCH).

The venerable nonprofit organization based on 10th Avenue, deep in Palolo Valley, is better known as a residential care home for adults.

But in Hawaii, which has the longest life expectancies of any state and a rapidly growing population of elders, the unique availability of day care and overnight stays for mobile seniors can be a blessing for round-the-clock care givers, often family members who need a temporary break.

"In the past, I couldn't enjoy my vacations because I was always thinking about Bob and how he was doing," says Jeanette. "Now I can go away and not worry, especially since all of his food is prepared according to his medical diet."

Jeanette Leau uses PCH's services only sporadically. Meanwhile, Stephanie Phillips drops off her 89-year-old father, Peter Teves, every weekday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for a full schedule of activities and socializing. "It provides good service and he doesn't just sit around in a chair," says Stephanie, 54.

Teves, a former assistant ship superintendent at Pearl Harbor, says there is plenty to do at PCH: chair exercises, gardening, playing bingo, doing arts and crafts, listening to visiting entertainers and even going on field trips.

As Stephanie runs her daily errands, attends to a property rental business and helps her children and grandchildren, the family patriarch is cared for at a daily cost of $50, which includes two meals and snacks.

Moreover, when Stephanie and husband Joe travel to the neighbor islands, Teves stays overnight in Palolo. That service runs $90 per evening, with three meals and snacks.

"Try it one time and see how it works," Jeanette Leau advises anyone hesitant about leaving an older relative at a home like PCH, even temporarily.

ISLAND tradition maintains that we are supposed to take care of our golden-agers, no matter how difficult and tiring. But consider some of these questions from the nonprofit's brochure:

Bullet Are you and other family members so involved with work and school that finding time to spend with beloved elders is a near impossibility?
Bullet Have things happened causing you to worry about their safety and well-being while alone?
Bullet Do you find yourself physically and emotionally spent because caring for an aging person is truly a labor of love?
Bullet Do you need to take time off from caring for a relative, but don't want to bother others who may be just as busy?

If any of these answers is yes, the solution may be PCH, which could be the only facility in Hawaii offering senior day and overnight stays in addition to its long-term residential home. Itself a senior at 82 years of age, it is proof that day care is NOT just for kids anymore.

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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