Helping Families Navigate Elder Care through Mediation

Family Members at One Another’s Throats? Call In the Mediator.

Exploring Elder Mediation: A Solution to Family Disputes over Elder Care

Elder mediation is emerging as a vital tool in resolving family disputes over elderly care. This unique form of conflict resolution focuses on issues specific to elder care, such as appropriate living arrangements, care responsibilities, and health and financial decisions. Traditionally associated with business disputes or divorce and custody cases, professional mediators are now being called upon to assist families struggling with the complexities of elder care.

The Case of the Curry Family: A Personal Experience with Elder Mediation

Consider the case of the Curry family. The four adult children were united in their concern for their father, William Curry, a retired electrical engineer and business executive who was succumbing to dementia. Although they found a suitable memory care facility close to their parents’ home, their mother, Melissa, was adamant about caring for her husband herself, despite her own declining health. Unable to convince their mother, the children were at a standstill until they discovered Elder Decisions, a company offering elder adult family mediation.

How Elder Mediation Works: A Look at the Process

Elder mediation typically involves an unbiased third party who facilitates a discussion centered on the elder’s needs and wishes. Unlike arbitration, where a decision is reached by an external party, mediation encourages the involved parties to arrive at a consensus. This approach respects the elder’s autonomy, even in situations where they may lack legal capacity. Mediation also differs from family therapy; while emotions can run high, the focus remains on addressing the issues at hand rather than healing old wounds.

Elder Mediation: A Win-Win Solution

Mediation offers several advantages over litigation. Apart from being less stressful and costly, it also promotes compromise and prevents the fracturing of familial relationships. The decisions reached are often documented in a memorandum of understanding, task list, or caregiving schedule, providing clear steps for families moving forward. Furthermore, the process and its outcomes remain confidential, which can be a relief for families who may feel embarrassed about seeking external intervention.

Finding a Trained Mediator: A Critical Step

Given that elder mediation is relatively new and lacks nationwide certification or licensing requirements, it’s crucial to find trained professionals. Families can consult organizations like the Association for Conflict Resolution, the Academy of Professional Family Mediators, or to find professionals specializing in elder mediation. With the advent of online mediation, these services have become more accessible regardless of geographical location.

The Potential of Elder Mediation: Strengthening Bonds and Resolving Disputes

While elder mediation may not always succeed, particularly if key family members refuse to participate or if there is suspicion of abuse or neglect, it can preserve or even strengthen family bonds when effective. The Curry family, for instance, managed to resolve their dispute in a single mediation session. Their father was moved to the memory care unit, where he benefited from social interaction, and their mother was able to visit him frequently. Both parents passed away in the same unit, their final years made more comfortable by the resolution achieved through mediation.

Conclusion: The Promise of Elder Mediation

In conclusion, elder mediation holds promise as an effective tool for resolving familial disputes over elder care. This emerging field of conflict resolution not only improves the quality of life for elders but also helps families navigate the complex and often emotionally charged decisions that come with elder care. As more families like the Currys turn to elder mediation, this approach is set to play an increasingly important role in addressing the challenges of elder care.