Ethan R. Okura


We often have clients who raised their families here in Hawaii, and then sent their children off to the mainland or elsewhere in the world to pursue their educations, careers, military service, or raising families of their own.  Although the children try to get back to visit Hawai`i nei once every year or two, life gets busy, and that doesn’t always happen. Even for those who do manage to come back once a year, as their parents start aging, it’s generally not often enough to really make sure that their parents are safe, healthy, and happy.

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging, show that for those over 65 years in age, 20% of men and 36% of women live by themselves. These numbers increase drastically with age, as almost half of all women over age 75 live alone. There are several risks that our elderly parents face which become more severe when they live alone.  Some of these risks are:


  • Social isolation – Lack of contact and interaction with others, increases the chances of suffering from depression, anxiety, loneliness, heart disease, high blood pressure, and mental deterioration. Often, being alone, the parent doesn’t even notice these symptoms and no one else is there to witness it either.
  • More likely to be poor – There might be several factors contributing to this phenomenon. With two people’s income and savings, it’s often a lot easier to pay living expenses. But ironically, even a couple with only one income often can avoid poverty although they’re supporting two with that one income.  Often one is better at managing finances than the other. Without someone to remind you, it’s easy to forget to pay bills and rack up late fees and interest.
  • Fall Risk – More than 90% of hip fractures occur as a result of falls, and falling is the culprit in 70% of accidental deaths of those over age 75.
  • Financial Abuse – Financial abuse of the elderly is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. It can happen not only through scams by strangers, but also by a trusted friend, family member, caretaker, or even their pastor or lawyer! This can be devastating to an elderly parent whose ability to live independently can be threatened by financial abuse. The National Adult Protective Services Association claims that only 1 in 44 cases of financial abuse is ever reported.

So what can we, as children, do for our parents? The first solution is:  Communicate. Talk with your aging parents (or for those aging parents reading this, talk with your adult children) about what to do in an emergency and come up with a plan if something did happen. Is there a Power of Attorney in place to have a trusted person manage the finances in such an event? How about an Advanced Health Care Directive to express parent’s health care wishes while they are still competent, and to appoint someone to make medical decisions for them when they are not?

If the parent has always managed finances on their own, maybe it’s time to start working with a financial advisor who can keep an eye out for suspicious activity, or whom your parent can turn to for financial advice when presented with an opportunity that looks too good to be true.

Get to know their friends, mail carrier, yard person when you can visit. They are the safety network and likely the first ones to notice if something goes wrong. Make time to be available. Setup a system of checking in by phone of having a neighbor check in on them. Perhaps you can develop a daily system of turning on a light or opening or closing a blind as a signal that all is well—if it doesn’t happen, the neighbor can come check in on them.

Help them to seek advice from a good estate planning attorney who has experience in elder law. They can structure their estate plan in such a way that it will help to protect—not only against probate, but also against potential scams, and future nursing home costs.

Our Kupuna (respected elders) cared for us. Let us take note and do the same for them even if we can’t be with them in person every day.