Care.com

Avra Siegel @avras

Why Hawaii’s Long-Term Care Proposal Matters to Everyone

Hawii's long-term care propsal is addressing America's rising senior care crisis

The demographics of our country are rapidly changing.

Every eight seconds, someone in America turns 65 years old. Seventy percent of older adults aged 65 or older will require long-term care for an average of 3 years, and by the year 2050, 27 million people will require some form of care or assistance.

Americans are already beginning to feel this on an individual level, with Care.com research showing that 77 percent of people worry about what senior care options will be available in the future for themselves and their spouses/partners. We're on a path toward a care crisis that will impact everyone, and as it stands we don't have the infrastructure to support it.

Not to mention that the cost of America's rising senior care crisis will be enormous, following a trajectory we cannot sustain. To control these costs and give our aging loved ones they want and deserve, we must build a high-quality home care infrastucture and reduce reliance on expensive institutional care.

Unpaid family caregivers are incredibly dedicated, but they are not the answer to this problem. They are already carrying a heavy and, oftentimes, unmanageable load. An estimated 40.4 million adults are providing unpaid care for an adult aged 65 or older, with 10 percent of unpaid caregivers being 75 years old or older. Nearly a quarter of these older caregivers do it for five years or more and are less likely to have paid help.

On average, unpaid family caregiving (across the spectrum of elder and child care) adds 24.4 hours a week of additional work. Many caregivers have symptoms of anxiety and depression, or are clinically depressed. Furthermore, an over-reliance on family caregivers is not a solution: our economy loses valuable workers and productivity when family caregivers are stretched in all directions. 

As these dramatic demographic shifts take place, costs go up and more and more unpaid family caregivers are taking responsibilities that are becoming increasingly difficult to balance with their day jobs and other family responsibilities.

We need to significantly change the way we provide care for older adults in America. We need a long-term plan for long-term care.

Hawaii is leading the country in innovative solutions to this large public problem. Hawaii has a proposal in the state legislature right now that would make it the first state in the country to offer all its seniors assistance with their long-term care needs.

Innovation begets innovation. When states lead, other states and, eventually, the federal government will often follow. That’s why this proposal matters not just to those of you in Hawaii, but also those of you who live across the United States.

Hawaii’s population is aging even more rapidly, and living longer than that of mainland states, so they are motivated to find a solution in the near-term. But as laid out above, this crisis will hit us all and we must act now to prevent real damage to our families and economy.

The Hawaii long-term care social insurance bill calls for a benefit of $70 per day for 365 days (non-consecutive) and would establish a “care floor,” ensuring that everyone would have access to basic resources to provide care at home for aging or disabled people. The fund would be paid for by a small increase in the general excise tax.

This fund isn’t meant to cover a stay in a long-term care facility, like a nursing home or an assisted living home. This bill would fund the support family caregivers need for successful long-term care at home, like hiring home care aides to help aging Hawaii residents stay at home safely and comfortably as well as equipment like walkers and ramps. When given the choice, 90 percent of people over age 65 prefer the notion of staying home to receive care rather than moving to a facility. The families working so hard to keep their loved ones at home and to honor their wishes need a broad based solution to this problem.

The fund would also help create high-quality home care jobs for trained and compassionate home care workers who deserve fair wages and respect for the work they do to care for others.

If you are a Hawaii resident and want to add your name in support of this bill, or live anywhere in the United States and just want more information, please visit the Care For Our Kupuna organizing website here.