Hawaii ICAD conference visit

I am in Hawaii for the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease and this morning a small group of attendees visited the Palolo Chinese People Home in Palolo, Hawaii.

They have been providing aged care services since 1896 when they were founded to care for Chinese plantation workers. The organisation provides an inspiring range of services fro Outreach in-homer services through to hospice for end-of-life care. And what is most amazing is that they do it with such few resources. At least in Australia there is a basic level of government funding to ensure some residential and community-based services for people regardless of their ability to pay. In the US system it depends very heavily on your and your family’s ability to pay. So many people are unable to afford even basic care. A care place costs about $95,000 pa and the funding is well short of that.

We met with staffers Donna and Kevin who showed us around and they are inspiring in their dedication to the people they care for. They told us many stories of people who have had no alternative to care but who live in the Palolo Valley where there is such a high proportion of the population in the elderly age group. The Palolo Home has such a dedication to the community in which they work that they often subsidise the care themselves. They will provide a meal and then work out the funding arrangements afterward.

However, they do not have secure dementia facilities so people whose needs are more socio-behavioural  have to move on to other care homes. This is a sadness for them and they work hard to maintain people in their current setting. It is clear from the quality of care interaction that the residents who live there are very contented and a move must be difficult for them and for their family.

Family is very important for the Hawaiian people and Donna was able to tell us about a recent admission in which a group of 11 family members accompanied their elderly relative to their new home. What must such family support do to a person for whom family is so important.

They have forged strong links with the local university medical school which provides medical services in the form of programs that support people living in their own homes with medical assessment and home visits by graduate medical students, a service that would otherwise not be available.

Thank you Palolo Chinese People’s Home staff and management for your generous hospitality.