July 17, 2018 | by the National Care Planning Council
What Is Elder Mediation?
It is amazing how quickly formerly cordial relationships between family members will sour when the family has to deal with care of elderly parents or inheritance at their death. Sometimes the consequence of dealing with the final years of elderly parents can break families apart and create long lasting animosity.
Elder mediation is a promising new tool to help families heal broken relations, solve difficult issues arising from dealing with elderly parents, or prevent misunderstandings or problems from happening in the first place.
Mediation has been around for a long time, but only recently is it being applied to solving problems with elder care. The term “elder mediation” is still not widely used and someone seeking services in this area would most likely contact a “family mediator.” Elder mediation is a rapidly growing specialization in the area of family mediation.
A mediator is a neutral third party who typically has no relationship with the family members who are in dispute or disagreement. The mediator brings the disputing people together, sits them down in the same room, and causes them to talk to each other. The mediator’s role is to negotiate a resolution to the problem that is causing the disagreement. The mediator does not dictate or make decisions for the disputing parties but finds ways to facilitate communication between them. The goal of mediation is to produce a written agreement that all parties will abide by.
It is amazing how little some families communicate with each other. Perhaps when they grew up together, they were not accustomed to coming together as parents and children and working out problems. They don’t have this family council strategy to rely on. It may seem unnatural to them. But that is often exactly what is needed, especially in situations where, perhaps, one child is caring for the parents and the others are left out of the loop.
When disagreements arise, suspicions begin to grow. Suspicions or distrust often lead to anger and the anger often leads to severing the channels of communication between family members.
This breaking up of ties can occur between parent and child or between siblings or between all of them. It is often at this point that a neutral third party can come in and repair the damage that has been done and help correct the problems that have come about because of the disagreement. A mediator experienced in elder mediation is a perfect choice for solving disagreements due to issues with the elderly.
Independent mediators are the people most likely to be of help to families needing elder mediation. Those who specialize in elder mediation are most likely to have a background dealing with issues with the elderly. Others of these providers may be able to help with elder mediation, but their specialty may be broader, and they will typically present themselves as being family mediators.
Agreements Suitable for Elder Mediation
Elder mediation is a brand-new field and is still finding its roots. Here are some issues with older people that can lead to disagreement, conflict, or dispute:
parental living arrangements
health and personal care (such as driving ability)
provisions in the case of terminal illness,
home upkeep and repair
nursing home care
trust and estate issues
power of attorney
relationships between parents, grandparents and grandchildren
We can talk about principles and ideas all day. You can”t fully realize the vision of how mediation can help unless you encounter actual examples where it would apply.
Here is one actual example:
(Names have been changed) Sally and Jane are taking care of their aging parents who are living in their own home but need special help with bathing, dressing, getting them out of bed and getting them ready for bed, doing laundry and housecleaning, shopping for their parents and taking them to doctors’ appointments and preparing their meals. Sally and Jane have their own families and both are employed. They trade off spending their evenings with their parents and one of them has gone to part-time employment in order to help the parents in the morning.
Their parents renovated the family home many years ago and created an apartment in the basement in order to produce rental income in their old age. They also have an additional rental property that provides further additional income.
Their divorced son–Sally and Jane’s brother– is living in the basement apartment and paying no rent. He is out of work and has had difficulty in the past remaining employed. He does not help with the care of his parents and the parents are actually using a portion of of their income to support him. Sally and Jane are angry. They need their parents to understand how they feel about the situation.
A mediator is the perfect solution for solving this problem.
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