Nearly half of isle seniors live alone

Nearly half of all Kaua‘i senior citizens live alone, many have disabilities, their numbers are growing faster than the state average, and many of them and their caregivers need help.

Those are among findings used to formulate a new, four-year plan designed to improve services to the island’s elderly population.

The board of the Kaua‘i County Agency on Elderly Affairs has adopted the plan to improve services to Kaua‘i senior citizens, and promote the health and well-being of the elderly.

Among other findings, the plan spelled out a need for the elderly to have easy access to information on programs and services, to allow the elderly to remain at home or in their communities as long as possible, and to have caregivers care for senior citizens.

If such recommendations are implemented, the elderly will be able to remain self-sufficient longer, and can lead healthier and happier lives, county officials have said.

The Kaua‘i plan would allow representatives of the county agency to apply for federal grant funds for existing and future programs.

The plan, when implemented, would help the existing elderly population. The plan also could become increasingly important as more baby boomers on Kaua‘i, those born between 1946 and 1964, reach the “golden age,” and would also need such services.

The 2000 census noted Kaua‘i had 10,468 seniors, but the number actually served by the county agency is fewer because not all have signed up for services.

The Kaua‘i plan now goes to the Kaua‘i County Council for review.

Approval of the plan will allow representatives of the county agency to secure federal grants for various programs, including assisted transportation, outreach services, case-management programs, home-delivered meals by staffers with Kauai Economic Opportunity. Inc., and caregiver training.

Kealoha Takahashi, acting head of the Kaua‘i County Agency on Elderly Affairs, said her agency received around $500,000 in federal grants for the fiscal year begun Tuesday, July 1.

These include funds for a National Family Caregiver Support Program, a major part of new efforts to help the frail at home. The state allotted $580,584 for the same period.

The Kaua‘i plan is to be implemented in October. Federal funds must be requested each year, Takahashi said.

The availability of federal and state funds would be contingent on what would be appropriated by the U.S. Congress and state Legislature, Takahashi said. “It really depends on what they have,” she said.

One stepped-up focus of the new plan is to provide more resources to family members who care for the frail elderly, Takahashi said.

From talks with senior citizens or through surveys, staffers with the county Agency on Elderly Affairs identified concerns that were of the gravest importance to the island’s elderly.

Senior citizens said they:

  • Want their transportation needs better met;
  • Want the cost of prescription drugs to be affordable;
  • Want more information on medical insurance and long-term-care insurance coverage;
  • Have concerns about protecting frail elders in care homes, although drafters of the plan found no credence to such fears. The plan drafters said abuses were more likely to be committed by relatives outside of care-home settings;
  • Have concerns about whom to contact and who can help in arranging for services in the home;
  • Need assistance with chores around the house;
  • Have interests in physical wellness;
  • Have concerns for people living alone.

    Drafters of the plan also noted:

  • Caregivers need supportive services and programs to help them meet the daily demand of “care giving, preventing burnout and caring for loved ones;”
  • Caregivers need information, education, in-home services, advice, counseling, support groups, respite care and other supplemental services;
  • Senior citizens need information, assistance and education related to options and rights;
  • The county agency will need to form partnerships with the private and public sector and the community to expand home and community-based services, something county agency officials working with the elderly agree.

    The drafters of the plan noted these strategies could be implemented to ensure its success:

  • Contract service providers;
  • Provide “direct services,” including information and assistance, outreach, friendly visiting and telephone “reassurance;”
  • Coordinate services to reduce gaps and eliminate duplicated services;
  • Advocate needs of Kaua‘i’s senior citizens at the local, state or national levels;
  • Use volunteers;
  • Encourage senior citizens to make contributions to ensure programs continue;
  • Search for grants.

Ongoing efforts to meet the needs of seniors include the state Executive Office on Aging continuing to allocate state resources for a care program for kupuna, focusing primarily on in-home services.

The county Agency on Elderly Affairs will continue with care-service programs to support senior citizens and their families. The service system will help frail senior citizens who need daily assistance.

The county agency will seek programs to train, counsel and help adults and families who care for senior citizens.

The drafters of the program listed information and assistance, case management, assisted transportation, outreach, and adult day care and home-delivered meals as among the top programs to be funded.

The plan noted that between 1980 and 2000, Kaua‘i’s elderly population increased by 70 percent, while the rest of the island population grew by 50 percent.

The plan also noted these characteristics of Kaua‘i senior citizens: Last year, the population of that group increased by 18 percent, compared with 17 percent for Honolulu; most of the people 60 years and older lived in the Kawaihau District (Kapa‘a and Wailua areas); 41 percent of the Kaua‘i population 65 years and older have disabilities; 14 percent have sensory disabilities; 13 percent have mental disabilities, and nearly 41 percent of older adults on Kaua‘i live alone.

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