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Failing To Care For Helpless Kupuna

Midweek; Jade Moon; 8/5/15


Scott Naputi and Marlyn Esta are young, in love and having a baby. They were planning a wedding this year.

But then life smacked them both in the head and shattered their happy optimism.

Acatt, a registered nurse, is losing his job at Leahi Hospital. His last day will be in October, the month their baby is due.

Marlyn, also a nurse at Leahi, has a bit more seniority than Scott, but not enough to be safe. She’s afraid she’ll get “bumped” by someone more senior.

The thought terrifies both of them.

“I can’t sleep,’ Scott says. “It’s really scary. I have anxiety. It’s really affected me, and us together.”

Marlyn says they’re trying to stay as positive as possible, “But I’m worried about the baby.”

The wedding, it goes without saying, is off for now.

I know Scott because he is one of the people taking care of my brother and other patients in the Young 4 Unit at Leahi Hospital. The unit will be shut down, the patients moved, and the staff either laid off or scattered.

Scott is not just worried about Marlyn and their baby. His colleagues at Leahi are his “family” too.

And he’s concerned about his patients who literally cannot do anything for themselves. They can’t bathe or eat or even get into a wheel-chair without help. The need a lot of medication on a set schedule.

They are helpless.

“You get attached to them and really care or hem.” Scott says. “I won’t be there anymore to take care of them. What happens to them later?”

And, he says, what will happen to all of the patients who would be admitted to Leahi or Maluhia but now will be turned away?

It’s a good question.

One answer is that those frail people will cycle in and out of hospitals over and over and over. That’s sad and costly for everyone.

Scott and Marlyn are trying to plan for the lean times. Scott, while employed full time at Leahi, also has been working toward a nurse practitioner license specializing in adult geriatrics.

When he finishes, he’ll be an advanced practice registered nurse, able o manage most of his patient’s medical conditions and even prescribe their medications. He’ll be finished with the program next May, and knows he has to hold on in order to make a better life or his family.

Marlyn is hoping against hope that she can stay employed. “It’s scary because no one is safe.”

I asked Scott is he had anything to say to Gov. Ige and to the lawmakers who hold the purse strings.

He thought about it. And then he said he was struck by something he’s seen in the news reports he and his colleagues have been clinging to for information. He’s discovered that long-term care doesn’t appear to be a priority for the movers and shakers in this state.

“That struck me hard,” he says. “What is a priority?”

Good questions.

If caring for our most helpless kupuna isn’t a priority in our Aloha State, why not?

When does it become one?

How do we make it one?

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