As the 2013 legislative session came to a close, volunteer advocates welcomed the passage of legislation tied to AARP Hawai‘i’s long-term care priorities — but cautioned that more must be done to address a growing elder-care challenge that threatens to overwhelm individuals and families.
“AARP welcomes funding commitments for Kūpuna Care and Aging and Disability Resource Centers,” said AARP Hawai‘i State President Gerry Silva. “At the same time we believe state government should be more proactive in preparing older residents and their families to cope with the rising cost of care eldercare, which threatens their retirement security.”
Funds were provided for one of the Commission’s recommendations — an actuarial and feasibility study of a mandatory public insurance program for Hawai‘i’s working population. But another critical component — the need for public education to help residents understand the risks associated with long-term care — went unfunded.
“Education is time-sensitive. Planning takes time and time is running out for many who will soon need care,” Silva said. “Unless we provide Hawai‘i residents with basic information about long-term care, including the different types of care services available, how much they cost, and the risk of needing some form of care in the future, many older residents and their families are in for a rude awakening as they realize how limited their options are.”
The Long-Term Care Commission was established by the Legislature in 2008 (Act 224) to conduct a comprehensive assessment of Hawai‘i’s long-term care system and recommend changes. Its report identified a convergence of forces that spell trouble for Hawai‘i’s future if not acted upon, including 1) a rapidly aging population, 2) a lack of public funding to support the medical needs of its seniors, and 3) a population that isn’t planning and is largely unprepared to pay for its own care.
Many studies support the Commission’s assessment that eldercare is beyond the reach of most Hawai‘i residents. In a 2012 AARP survey of Hawai‘i residents age 50+ nearly two-thirds (64 percent) said they are not confident they can afford to pay for even one year in a nursing home. A separate national survey last year pegged the annual cost of one year in a private nursing home in Hawai‘i at $125,000.
“We’re asking the state to sound the alarm — just as it does in the face of natural disasters such as hurricanes and tsunamis,” Silva said. “Sound the alarm for the ‘silver tsunami’ so that people can prepare for what may be a devastating blow for our elders and their families.”
For an overview of AARP’s priority outcomes for the 2013 session, go online to http://states.aarp.org/legislature-funds-long-term-care-priorities-selectively/.