I testified in support of the Kupuna Caregivers Assistance bill, Senate Bill 534/House Bill 607, because I believe that not only is it essential for struggling families, it can be extremely helpful to businesses.

It’s wonderful that the bill was just passed by both the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the House Finance Committee. All that remains is the full vote in the Senate and the House.

As someone who heads Hagadone Hawaii Companies, which includes the largest commercial printer in Hawaii, I believe this bill can alleviate some of the impact of caregiving by unpaid family caregivers on business productivity.

Worker absenteeism is part of the fallout of the stress of caregiving when emergencies arise. But there is also the challenge of the less talked about “presenteeism.” That’s when workers are present but can’t work at their full capacity because of other stressors in their life.

The MetLife Study of Working Caregivers and Employer Health Care Cost (2010) found that absenteeism is much higher amongst caregivers, regardless of their age. The research also found that insurance and health care costs are higher for working caregivers. They report higher rates of hypertension, depression and diabetes, potentially costing U.S. employers an extra estimated $13.4 billion per year.

FACE supporters SB2478 relating to long term care sit in Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health meeting chaired by Sen Ros Baker.

The study concluded that “caregiving for an older relative is an important factor in the health, medical care expense, and productivity of employees across all age groups, and therefore in the health costs for employers.”

There are other ways that caregiving affects productivity. When a caregiver leaves the workforce early to take care of an aging loved one, we lose trained, skilled, seasoned workers. Caregivers are more likely to work fewer hours and are less likely to take promotions when available due to caregiving duties.

I have personally seen the effects of caregiving with our own employees. Many times their own health falters as they try to keep up with their full responsibilities at work and assume new caregiving responsibilities at home.

I applaud the leadership of legislators in moving this bill forward. SB534/HB607 offers modest but critically important aid that our working caregivers desperately need. With the $70-a-day benefit, working families can afford a trained home health care worker, a little extra help preparing meals, or perhaps providing transportation when a family caregiver is not available.

This program will help make long-term care for our kupuna more affordable and manageable, and provide the helping hand caregivers so desperately need.

Businesses should let legislators know they support helping family caregivers. Businesses tend too often to almost reflexively oppose new public policies that provide benefits that they fear may increase the cost of doing business.

I would argue that the Kupuna Caregivers Assistance Bill is long overdue recognition of the unpaid labor of family members in ways that will help businesses retain experienced employees and allow them to stay productive even as they continue to respond to the growing needs of our kupuna.

We can continue pretending we do not see what the demographics are telling us about how fast we are aging as a state. Or we can demonstrate, as the legislators appear to be doing, foresight in planning for the inevitable growth in the numbers of kupuna who will need help with the tasks of daily living.

We will all get there someday. This is a societal responsibility. The community has expressed its support in the large volume of testimony and the passion of advocates in advancing this bill. Businesses that like to say that employees are their greatest asset need to tell legislators that they support the Kupuna Caregivers Assistance Bill.

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