*Kelly, 51, had so many questions when she received the doctor’s call that it was time for her mother to be transferred to a care facility. How can she help? What should she do? Is her mother going to be OK?
One of Kelly’s concerns was that she lives in Oregon, thousands of miles away from her mother who lives in Hilo. She also did not have the legal right to make decisions for her mother’s health care and manage her finances.
“Because Kelly did not have any legal authority, the doctors couldn’t even tell her about the various treatments available for her mother,” said Hawai‘i Island Managing Attorney Scott Shishido, Kelly’s primary advocate. “She’s the only adult child; she has been the one taking care of her mom’s needs.”
Good thing Kelly was connected to Legal Aid through the Hawai‘i County Office of Aging (HCOA) in March 2022. Through the streamlined referral process from HCOA, Legal Aid was able assist Kelly in obtaining guardianship of her mother, which answered all of Kelly’s questions and dispelled her worries.
“She was a little worried because the issues were in front of her at that time,” said Scott. “She was very concerned that the case could not be processed expeditiously, especially because she resides on the continent.”
It was sometimes challenging to communicate because of the time difference and Kelly’s variable work schedule, but they worked through the logistical hiccups to make sure Kelly got the assistance that she needed.
Through the guardianship, Kelly now has the legal right to safeguard her mother’s personal property, to make medical decisions to ensure that she is receiving necessary medical care and treatment, and to make many other important decisions for her mother’s best interest.
In September, Kelly finally received the Court order giving her full legal guardianship of her mother, and in December, her mother's bank approved the addition of Kelly's name to her mother’s account.
“Kelly can now help her mom, and there are no longer any issues with consenting to procedures or medical information,” said Scott. “She is appreciative of the help that she received.”
“There is definitely a need for legal assistance for guardianships, wills, powers of attorney, advanced health care directives, and other kupuna-focused services here on the Big Island,” said Scott.
“For the most part, obtaining a guardianship through the Court can be complicated to navigate for those not familiar with the process. Because many folks can’t afford an attorney to help assist them with the process, especially when there is such a need among the kupuna population, it’s great that Legal Aid and HCOA can work together to serve our kupuna in this way.”