Working Caregivers Can Get Some Relief Through New State Program

Kevin Y. Kawamoto
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

Are you taking care of a kupuna (older adult) while also working at least 30 hours a week? If so, you and the person you are caring for may be eligible for a new program that was established by the Hawai‘i state Legislature during the 2017 session. The bill, which Gov. David Ige signed into law in July 2017, provides up to $70 a day to pay for various home- and community-based services that can help an older adult “age-in-place” at home while the caregiver of the older adult continues to work.

Called the Kupuna Caregivers Program, it can help pay for services such as adult day care, chore services, home-delivered meals, homemaker services, personal care, respite or transportation, according to a press release issued last December by the state’s Executive Office on Aging.

“The landmark initiative is a first step in recognizing the significant contributions and sacrifices of Hawai‘i’s working caregivers as they celebrate and honor their kupuna,” Ige said in the release. “Support for our caregivers is critically needed, as Hawai‘i’s population is aging more rapidly than the national average and our seniors live longer than seniors in any other state.”

In order to participate in the Kupuna Caregivers Program, caregivers must be employed at least 30 hours a week and providing direct care to an older adult 60 years or older. The older adult cannot be covered by “any comparable government or private home and community-based care service, except Kupuna Care services,” according to the Executive Office on Aging. Kupuna Care services help qualified older adults in Hawai‘i who are not eligible for Medicaid and are aging in place at home.

The funds for the new Kupuna Caregivers Program are limited. The Legislature appropriated $600,000 for the first year of the program. The money will only be available until June 30, 2018, unless the Legislature appropriates more money during the 2018 session. Hawai‘i caregivers interested in seeing if they are eligible for the program should contact the Aging and Disability Resource Center to apply.

The application process will include verification of the caregiver’s employment status, a caregiver burden assessment (which is like an evaluation to study how much stress the caregiver is under) and an assessment of the person receiving care from the caregiver. The phone number to call for further information, or to apply is (808) 643-2372, ADRC TTY line (808) 643-0899.

The law that created the Kupuna Caregivers Program stipulates that the person receiving care cannot live in a long-term care facility. If a caregiver is eligible to receive the financial support, the money — if it is still available — will be paid directly to contracted service providers, not to the caregiver. Additionally, the person being cared for must meet the criteria established for eligibility, which include having impairments of at least two activities of daily living (ADLs), or two instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), or one ADL and one IADL, or have substantive cognitive impairment requiring substantial supervision.

The bill that Gov. Ige signed into law in 2017 was H.B. 607, which became Act 102, the Kupuna Caregiver Assistance Act. The language in the law specifies what is meant by ADLs — namely, eating, dressing, bathing, toileting, transferring in and out of a bed or chair and walking. IADLs include preparing meals, shopping for personal items, medication management, managing money, using the telephone, performing light housework, performing heavy housework and making use of available transportation.

The part of state law that is affected by the Kupuna Caregivers Program is Chapter 349, Hawai‘i Revised Statutes, part II: Kupuna Care and Caregiver Support Services. The law states that Hawai‘i’s Executive Office on Aging will administer and coordinate the Kupuna Caregivers Program, but that the program will be “implemented” by the Area Agencies on Aging. Area Agencies on Aging are a national network of services and programs for older adults. This network was established in 1973 by a federal law called the Older Americans Act. In Hawai‘i, the local entities that comprise the network of aging services and programs are the Elderly Affairs Division (Honolulu County); Kahi Malama — A Place of Caring, Aging & Disability Resource Center (Hawai‘i County); Maui County Office on Aging and Kauai Agency on Elderly Affairs. The umbrella website that contains information about services and supports for Hawai‘i’s kupuna is the ADRC Hawai‘i website, www.hawaii Those who prefer to call for assistance can call the ADRC Hawai‘i number listed above.

The rest of the nation is watching to see how the Kupuna Caregivers Program unfolds and works out in Hawai‘i and whether it could be a viable model elsewhere. The program is different from state-funded long-term care insurance, an idea that has been introduced and discussed for many years in Hawai‘i, but has failed to gain enough support in the Legislature to become law. The Kupuna Caregivers Program was not intended to pay for long-term care in an institution and cannot be used for that purpose.

However, for those caregivers who could use a boost in financial assistance as they care for elders at home using home- and community-based services and support, the Kupuna Caregivers Program could play an important role in helping caregivers remain in the workforce while relieving some of the demands of care at home. The program is now open for business, so if you or someone you know may be eligible and you are interested in being among the first to give it a try, call the number listed in this story. If you are interested in sharing your experiences with the Herald for a follow-up piece in the future, please e-mail or contact Karleen Chinen at or (808) 845-2255.

Kevin Kawamoto is a longtime contributor to The Hawai‘i Herald.


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