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Kupuna Pono program deals with hard-to-broach elder-care topics

(Via Star Advertiser)

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Ron Matayoshi and his mother Mary jokingly sparred at her Kahala home. The Matayoshi family participated in the Kupuna Pono program with the Mediation Center of the Pacific.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Ron Matayoshi and his mother Mary jokingly sparred at her Kahala home. The Matayoshi family participated in the Kupuna Pono program with the Mediation Center of the Pacific.

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                “I think the main thing here is that we heard her voice. We captured in her words what she wanted,” said Ron Matayoshi, pictured with his mother, 86-year-old Mary Matayoshi, left.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    “I think the main thing here is that we heard her voice. We captured in her words what she wanted,” said Ron Matayoshi, pictured with his mother, 86-year-old Mary Matayoshi, left.

In her 33 years as a social worker, Susan Michihara has seen close-up how a medical crisis can tear at the fabric of family life.

“We would hope ideally that crisis brings families together, but many times that’s not the case,” she said. “For lack of a better word, it rips them apart.”

That’s why she’s an advocate of Kupuna Pono, a little-known program developed by the Mediation Center of the Pacific to help kupuna (elders) tackle tough issues early with family members and plan for their care needs.

Families typically put that off until they are forced to react in an emergency, and that can be the worst time, with emotions high and no time to reflect.

Perhaps a fall sends grandma to the hospital. Or a daughter breaks under the strain of caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease.

“Long-seated resentments or disagreements that could be held in check under normal times bubble up in times of crisis, in times of vulnerability,” Michihara said. “Ultimately the patient is the one that really feels the pain.”

Kupuna Pono brings family members together on neutral ground to focus on the needs of kupuna and how to meet them in the future. Impartial facilitators make sure each person — especially the elder — has a voice in the discussion.

The sessions are free for the needy, with support from the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. A collaboration with Kaiser Permanente waives the $250 fee for its members.

The three-hour family conference covers a range of issues, including how to handle in-home care, medical needs, finances and end-of-life care. A plan is developed, with bullet points and responsibilities spelled out. For families already in strife, mediation is available.

“This forum allows for families to come together and hash out the hard stuff,” Michihara said. “The way they do it is really priceless. They start by having families identify their strengths.”

Mary Matayoshi, a lively 86-year-old widow who loves to travel, thought she had her future pretty well figured out. Her children are well established in their careers and she has a comfortable, independent lifestyle. But she found her family conference enlightening.

“I think I was the guinea pig,” she said with a giggle. “When they first called me, I said I’ve already planned for any eventuality, so maybe one hour would be enough. I thought three hours is awfully long. But we used every bit of the three hours.

“They had so many questions and concerns that we needed to talk about. It was a very thorough, much more intensive inquiry than I had expected and I was grateful for it.”

The meeting covered practical questions such as what would happen when she can no longer drive and how to pay for long-term care. And there were deeper questions as well: What would she prefer when the end is near? What are her hopes and dreams for her kids?

Matayoshi’s son, Ron, a faculty member at the University of Hawaii School of Social Work, said people need to take the time to broach such questions, which are largely overlooked in the bustle of daily living.

“I think the main thing here is that we heard her voice,” he said. “We captured in her words what she wanted.

“The facilitators were unbiased, very kind and quiet people,” he added. “They weren’t saying a lot. They simply asked leading questions: What would you do, why would you do that? That put us at ease.”

Tracey Wiltgen, executive director of the Mediation Center, created the program a couple of years ago to address common breakdowns in communication involving elders: Adult children making decisions without input from parents. Elders reluctant to ask for help for fear of being a burden. Disputes over assets like the family home. Divergent views on end-of-life care.

“They figure if they don’t talk about it, maybe it will go away,” Wiltgen said. But she knows that productive conversations can forestall problems and illuminate solutions.

She vividly remembers one session where a kupuna was asked what she wanted most. Her answer was: “For my kids to stop fighting.”

Kupuna Pono staffers talk to each family member before the conference to set the agenda. Then everyone gathers for a three-hour session at a convenient location — at the center, at home or even in a park. A facilitator asks questions and a note-taker keeps track. A plan is developed.

As Hawaii’s population ages, the need to take stock and prepare is growing. In families that are struggling financially, the potential for strain is greater. But few people know where to turn, and even fewer take action.

“Our elder population has grown tremendously,” Wiltgen said. “The Boomers are now old, and everybody has a caregiving story. Although the professionals see the value in Kupuna Pono, and even the family members, getting people to actually access it has been the challenge.”

Some local folks are shy about discussing sensitive issues with strangers. Mary Matayoshi said they shouldn’t worry about that with Kupuna Pono, which is confidential.

“Actually it’s easier in many ways to speak to strangers, because sometimes friends know too much about you or might be opinionated,” she said.

Her daughter-in-law, Aleza, an internist at Kaiser, has seen the value of Kupuna Pono in her daily work, which focuses on the care of elders in nursing homes.

“Often, as a physician, I find that when people are seriously ill, that person’s wants and needs get lost in the history that all families have,” she said. “We lose sight sometimes of what’s important to our mother or father, or our auntie or uncle.”

Kupuna Pono “is really centered on the loved one and it’s not the agenda of everybody else,” she said.

Ron Matayoshi, 63, thinks more people should take advantage of the program, reflecting on the challenges faced by some of his high school classmates as their family members aged.

“I wish they had an opportunity to have a family conference while their parents still had their wits,” he said. “Because right now, it’s just too late.”

Source: Star Advertiser

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House speaker wants city to help fund rail

(Via Star Advertiser)

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / JULY 2016
                                House Speaker Joe Souki said he will not support Gov. David Ige’s proposal for increases in the state gasoline tax, vehicle weight tax and registration fees to help funding for statehighway maintenance and construction.

    CRAIG T. KOJIMA / JULY 2016

    House Speaker Joe Souki said he will not support Gov. David Ige’s proposal for increases in the state gasoline tax, vehicle weight tax and registration fees to help funding for statehighway maintenance and construction.

House Speaker Joe Souki says he supports plans to make the half-percent excise tax surcharge for the Honolulu rail project permanent, and wants to use money from the surcharge to extend the rail line to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, but only on one condition: Souki says the city must contribute its own funding to help pay to build the project.

State lawmakers reconvene next week for the 2017 session of the Legislature, and Souki said in an interview that money from the excise tax surcharge on Oahu should be used only for construction, and not to cover the cost of operating the 20-mile rail system.

Souki also said he supports reducing the 10 percent administrative fee the state charges the city for collecting the excise surcharge to 5 percent. The state has earned hundreds of millions of dollars from that fee since the surcharge went into effect in 2007.

Souki stressed that he is speaking only for himself because his fellow Democrats have not yet agreed on a formal position on the rail excise tax. However, at 83 years old, Souki is a veteran political operator who has served as speaker twice, and has a history of getting his way on some important political issues.

The excise tax surcharge was originally supposed to be a temporary source of funding for rail but was extended once already to cover the skyrocketing cost of the project. The surcharge is scheduled to expire at the end of 2027, but it will not cover the cost of rail unless it is extended.

Total costs for the rail line could now reach $9.5 billion, according to the latest financial plan, and the surcharge currently provides about $230 million a year for the project.

Souki declined to say exactly how much money he thinks the city should contribute toward rail construction, but said he believes thus far the city has gotten a “free ride” on the project because none of the funding for construction is coming from Honolulu property taxes.

If the city contributes some its own funds, that will make the tax surcharge extension more palatable to legislators when it is time for them to vote on it, Souki said. He also suggested the city can afford to help with the construction costs, noting the city has enjoyed a property tax windfall from the new condominiums that are popping up in urban Honolulu.

Jesse Broder Van Dyke, spokesman for Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, said in a written statement that Caldwell met with Souki to discuss the issue and agreed to find more city revenue sources for operations and maintenance of bus and rail. Broder Van Dyke did not make any reference to Souki’s proposal that the city help fund construction of the rail project.

On another subject, Souki said he will not throw his support behind Gov. David Ige’s proposal for increases in the state’s gasoline tax, vehicle weight tax and registration fees to boost funding for state highway maintenance and construction.

“That won’t be one of my recommendations, because every poll shows that the public doesn’t want the registration tax increase and the gasoline tax increase,” Souki said. “If the governor can push it, good and well.”

In describing the attitude of the public, Souki said, “Traffic is the major concern, but they don’t want to pay for it.”

Ige proposed increases in the gasoline tax, weight tax and and registration fees last year, but lawmakers rejected them all. The governor says he will again ask lawmakers to approve those tax increases this year because he sees few alternatives for funding highway construction.

Ige has said that his administration will defer almost all major new projects to increase highway capacity and reduce traffic congestion on state roadways because the state Highway Fund does not have enough money to finance the large-scale projects.

Source: Star Advertiser

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HART loses chief financial officer, planning deputy

(Via Star Advertiser)

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Construction continued on the rail line along Kamehameha Highway from Aiea towards Aloha Stadium, as it crosses the Aiea Interchange No. 4 next to the Aiea Cemetery in this Dec. 5 photo.

    DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Construction continued on the rail line along Kamehameha Highway from Aiea towards Aloha Stadium, as it crosses the Aiea Interchange No. 4 next to the Aiea Cemetery in this Dec. 5 photo.

Another Oahu rail official has left the project.

Diane Arakaki resigned and departed as the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s chief financial officer on Dec. 15, according to the rail agency’s latest monthly status report. Arakaki was HART’s CFO for more than four years.

Attempts to reach Arakaki for comment Thursday were unsuccessful, and a HART spokesmen said he didn’t have a reason for her departure.

She’s the latest of more than a dozen prominent personnel to leave HART in the past two years — a trend that has raised concerns among the agency’s board, Honolulu’s mayor, and, most recently, outside officials conducting a peer review for rail’s federal partners.

Last week, a team with the American Public Transportation Association visited HART’s Honolulu offices and rail construction sites to review how well the project is being managed. Their report is due out in mid-February, but among their preliminary findings the team cited a “loss of institutional knowledge due to staff turnover,” said Krishniah Murthy, HART’s interim executive director, who started work Dec. 5.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell testified before the HART board last month that he had asked his staff to compile a list of those who recently left the agency and the salaries they earned.

“Many of them that left were some of the most highly compensated people in the city,” Caldwell told the board at its Dec. 15 meeting. “It begs the question: Are they leaving because of pay, or are they leaving because of management?”

With rail costs and schedule delays increasing, “it’s probably not the best place to work,” Caldwell added. “We want to keep those folks” and make HART a better working environment.

HART leaders, including board Vice Chairman Terrence Lee, have also expressed concern over the agency’s “revolving door.”

HART has offered the CFO position to someone who has accepted but hasn’t yet signed an employment agreement, agency spokesman Bill Brennan said. That person, Arakaki’s replacement, is tentatively scheduled to start in February, he added.

Additionally, HART’s former deputy director of planning, Jon Nouchi, left the agency the day after Arakaki, Brennan said. Nouchi’s LinkedIn social media profile lists him as joining HART in May 2014. He’s now deputy director for the city’s Department of Transportation Services.

HART is proceeding with its search for a permanent CEO to take over in about a year, board member Colbert Matsumoto said.

Source: Star Advertiser

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Hawaii lawmakers tackle emissions, housing, budget

(Via Hawaii News Now)

Hawaii lawmakers are introducing dozens of bills to solve the homelessness crisis and increase affordable housing. They’ve got a proposal to issue $2 billion in state-backed bonds to develop public housing, shelters and apartments.

They’re rushing to file hundreds of bills ahead of a legislative deadline as they head into their first full week of the 2017 session.

Some are calling for 100 percent renewable energy from gas companies and the transportation sector. Another bill calls for dramatic reductions in greenhouse emissions.

They’ll also hold budget hearings about the amount of money going to education and to the counties.

Gov. David Ige will deliver his State of the State address Monday, outlining his priorities for the year. Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald will deliver the State of the Judiciary speech Wednesday.

Source: Hawaii News Now

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