Hawaii’s family caregivers are starting to get the support they need. These caregivers are among the 247,000 sons, daughters, husbands and wives who help loved ones stay independently at home for as long as possible — providing help with everyday tasks.
In mid-April nearly 500 Hawaii residents joined elder advocacy groups and resource providers in paying tribute to family caregivers at an event at the Japanese Cultural Center. The event was to recognize the extraordinary contributions they make, highlight helpful community resources and provide an update of recent legislative efforts to support caregivers and their families.
During the 2014 legislative session AARP supported a measure that would allow family caregivers be more involved in the patient healthcare process. Senate Bill 2264 (the CARE Act) was a Kupuna Caucus bill backed by many House and Senate legislators and community groups. It was intended to give caregivers the instruction needed to safely care for loved ones when they’re discharged from the hospital.
AARP believes caregivers should be informed and recognized for their role in coordinating the care of loved ones transitioning from hospitals to home. Research found that family caregivers are under pressure to provide increasingly complex medical tasks — like wound care, injections, and medication management — when loved ones return home from the hospital. Caregivers often receive little or no training to provide care and are often the only option available to families, who may not be able to afford professional home care.
How serious are the challenges facing Hawaii’s caregivers? The answer may be found in personal stories of caregivers like Keri Yamamoto, a caregiver and occupational therapist, whose uncle was admitted twice last year to a local hospital. She was “highly dissatisfied” with the discharge procedure. She testified in Support of SB 2264. On Maui, caregiver Michele Paularena, also supported the bill when her husband was discharged from the hospital without adequate instructions on how to administer the medications prescribed.
While SB 2264 did not survive this session, the House Finance Committee passed a concurrent resolution (HCR 78) that calls for the establishment of a family caregiving working group to examine and assess the role of caregivers in the hospital discharge process. AARP welcomes the opportunity to work with hospitals and community stakeholders to ensure caregivers are properly instructed in the care of loved ones at discharge.
Hawaii needs coordinated care putting patients and families first. As our population ages, it’s essential that family caregivers are supported and our community recognizes the limits of what they can do on their own.