Barbara Kim Stanton
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
When AARP volunteer Laurie Kaneshiro brought her mother home to Hawai‘i to take care of her, she had no idea what was ahead and how much it would cost.
“I was used to working 14 to 16 hours a day,” she said. But when her mother, who suffered from dementia and other ailments, came to live with her, Kaneshiro found herself needing to take time off from work to make sure her mother was eating and didn’t fall and hurt herself.
Eventually, she quit her job to become a full-time caregiver.
Her situation is all too common.
That’s why Kaneshiro and fellow AARP volunteer and caregiver Patricia Bemis decided to organize this year’s AARP Hawaii Caregiver Conference, which will be held Saturday, March 25, from 8 a.m. to noon in the Manoa Grand Ballroom at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i.
“You don’t realize how complicated it (caregiving) is until you get into it,” Bemis said. “I figured we had a good, solid financial future, and that went out the window so quickly.”
This year’s conference will focus on how to pay for caregiving. It’s aimed at caregivers, people in need of caregiving, or those just trying to figure out what to do as you age and may need care in the future.
Speakers will share information on how to plan for caregiving, long-term care insurance, reverse mortgages, Medicaid and other government programs, and accessary dwelling units and home improvements that may be needed as people age. University of Hawai‘i Professor Michael Cheang from the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences will close the conference with tips for improving the quality of life at home. In addition, there will be an exhibition area with information and handouts.
“It (family finances) is a hard topic to discuss,” Kaneshiro said. “A lot of people don’t want to talk about their finances. It’s not just that they don’t want the kids to know about their money. They don’t want the kids arguing over it.”
But talking about money and a person’s wishes for care before an emergency or before a person can’t speak for his or herself can make a difficult situation easier.
It’s also important for caregivers to think about themselves and their future.
Bemis notes that caregivers are sometimes so caught up in caring for a loved one that they don’t think about how they are going to pay for care if they need it.
Caregivers who attend our conference will also find support from each other.
“I think when people hear different stories from others and people talk to others about why they’re there and what they’re going through, you don’t feel so alone,” Kaneshiro said.
There are about 154,000 family caregivers in Hawai‘i. In a 2015 survey, nearly 60 percent of Hawai‘i caregivers reported feeling stressed emotionally due to caregiving responsibilities; 27 percent felt financially strained.
It’s our hope that conferences like this will arm caregivers with knowledge and relieve some of the stress that comes with providing the vital service of caring for others.
You can register for the conference online at https://aarp.cvent.com/care3-25 or call 1-877-926-8300.
Barbara Kim Stanton has been the state director of AARP Hawaii since 2005. She writes about living a life of real possibilities, where age is not a limit and experience equals wisdom.
Visit AARP Hawaii here