By: TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA
Source: August 2005 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column
`Ano`ai kakou… As an advocate for better health care for all Hawaiians, especially our kupuna, and as the Chair of the Native Hawaiian Health Task Force, I am very pleased to announce that on June 23, 2005, the Board of Trustees approved a grant of $300,000 to help fund the Kupuna Continuing Care Assurance Program which will be administered by Lunalilo Home over the next two years. The program is designed to help make residential care, respite care, adult day care, and outreach nutritional services (hot meals delivered to a kupuna’s home) more affordable for Native Hawaiian kupuna.
Lunalilo Home was established in 1883 by the will of High Chief William Charles Lunalilo to care for poor, destitute, and infirmed Hawaiians, with preference given to the elderly. Lunalilo Home has been operating out of its present site at Maunalua since 1927. Operations continued until 1997 when it temporarily suspended operations to undergo a major renovation to its aging two-story structure. OHA helped fund major portions of this renovation work and operations resumed in August 2001.
The new Kupuna Continuing Care Assurance Program will allow Lunalilo Home to subsidize the residential care of kupuna in financial need. The program is part of a long-term plan by Lunalilo Home to establish partnerships with other organizations so that they may expand their elder care services and assist more kupuna than it is currently able to serve. An estimated 16,000 Hawaiian kupuna in the state may benefit from respite care alone.
As most of you know, the cost of long-term care for the elderly has risen dramatically in recent years. Families are finding that a kupuna’s Health Plan benefits (private or Medicare) are not enough to cover the cost of long-term care. More and more families are forced to pay for costs out of their pockets or end up doing without long-term residential care for their kupuna.
Of the 38 current residents in Lunalilo Home, approximately 30 of them are only able to partially afford the cost of care or receive government assistance for health and financial needs. Lunalilo Home partially subsidizes the cost of care for these residents through various fundraisers.
The state’s older population is also increasing and aging at a rapid rate. Between 1990 and 2000, the 60 years or older population increased by 19%, compared to about 9% nationally. During the same period, the population of Hawaiians 85 years or older increased nearly twice as fast as the national average (68.9% vs. 37.6% U.S.).
An estimated 207,001 persons in Hawaii, or 17 percent of the state’s population, were 60 years or older in 2000, higher than the national average of 16.3%. Hawaii ranks 20th nationally in the percentage of older persons (60+) residing in the state. About 17,564 persons, or about 1% of the state’s population, were 85 years or older in 2000.
Roughly 5.5% of the state’s population over 60 years of age is Native Hawaiian. About 75% of Hawaii’s total kupuna population (ages 60+) resides on Oahu. An estimated 114,872 family caregivers reside in the state and provide about 107 million hours of care giving per year at an estimated value in 1997 of about $875 million.
Lunalilo Home estimates it could provide services to 167 Native Hawaiian kupuna per day for two years with the $300,000 grant it received from OHA. The Home will also be able to expand their much needed adult day care services to assist working caregivers and hot meal services through “Meals-on-Wheels.”
After a lifetime of dignity, independence, and hard work, our kupuna deserve access to affordable elder care. If not, we will run the risk of prematurely losing their wisdom at a time when the Hawaiian community needs it the most. Thanks to the teamwork of OHA and Lunalilo Home, something substantial is being done to assist this vulnerable part of our population. Imua e Hawai’i nei…