ELDER MEDIATION

The Elder Parent’s Decline and the Roles of Caretakers/ Family Members

Family conflicts often result when taking care of an elderly parent(s) since it can be overwhelming. Some elder parents have impaired decision-making capabilities and are no longer able to handle everyday tasks including self-care. An elder parent’s need for a new environment to address their compromised functioning level can create strife in family members who now have to make difficult decisions for their parent(s), and essentially they reverse roles. 

Issues such as residential placement, medications, medical treatment, and who helps or makes decisions for the elder parent(s) come to the forefront and often are emergent. This process of decision-making can create many issues for the children of the elder parent(s) since many “old” family dynamics come to the surface. Often, the elder parent’s needs are seen differently by family members. Furthermore, when senior parents go through a major health change, it can create confusion and these crucial decisions can be postponed due to family disagreements regarding who makes the decisions along with not knowing how to actually include the parent in the decision-making process. 

 

Mediation Helps to Avoid Court Intervention 

Most families want to avoid court intervention in regard to guardianship or conservatorship of the elder parent(s). Planning for the elder’s needs along with supported decision-making for the elder parent can be addressed in mediation. A mediator, the elder parent who may have an attorney with him/her, along with family members discuss what is occurring in the parent’s life, what changes are needed to ensure his/her safety, the quality of life, along with medical and financial concerns. Mediation can strengthen the voice of the elder parent to be heard by his/her family members and what he/she wishes during this transitional life stage. 

Mediation often lessens the tensions in the family and puts the family on a clear path with a plan of action with designated roles for family members. Mediation is not a platform to vent emotions, but to remain focus on the needs of the elder parents and to reach an agreement as to the “plan of action.” An experienced mediator can navigate through the various emotional reactions of the participants while moving forward to a resolution. 

What Does a Mediator Do? 

A mediator helps the family by identifying the issues to be discussed and moving the discussion forward when it becomes stymied due to family dynamics and helps the family stay focus on the need for an outcome for their elder parent(s). Subjects/issue to be discussed in mediation is determined by the needs of each family. Families often need to discuss financial resources, community resources, medical resources, and living arrangements. Mediation is considered to be a far more suitable method than applying to the court for intervention or if a petition has already been filed for guardianship/conservatorship, to develop a plan to be presented to the Court.  

Seeking help from a trained elder mediator can save time, money and preserve family relationships. If family” in-fighting” persists rather than coming up with a mutually agreed solution for the elder parent, emotional, financial, and medical loss can ensue for the elder parent.  Seniors often suffer from anxiety and/or depression over their inadequate living arrangements and left untreated, can result in more memory loss and/or physical impairment for the elder. 

How does Mediation help the Elder Parent? 

The elder parent often can feel scarred, confused, and depressed over the lack of control over their current life situation. A trained elder mediator is sensitive to these issues and can help remind the family members who are experiencing their own emotional reaction to their parent’s decline and help them be sensitive and patient with their elder parent’s new level of functioning which may be upsetting to them.  

It can be difficult for children to convince seniors they cannot live on their own because it is no longer safe for them. Supportive decision for the elder parent is decision making with the “support” of their family members or professionals. The elder parent’s opinion is important to the process which can change with their level of functioning over time but gives the elder parent a sense of well-being, and some semblance of control over their changing life. A mediator can encourage healthier conversations between adult children and the elder parent and a mediator can clarify what an elder parent may need help with and what he/she can manage on his/her own. 

Where Does Mediation Occur 

Mediation can occur in person at the mediator’s office, an elder’s home, a relatives’ home, an assisted living community, or even virtually via Zoom. The cost for mediation and its preparation is by the hour. A mediator will contact the participants prior to the mediation to identify the issues to be discussed, where the mediation will occur, and to go over the Agreement to Mediate which describes the mediation process.

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