Elder Mediation

Elder Mediation

Elder mediation is a process that helps families work collaboratively to resolve difficult issues that often arise as family members age. If left unresolved and if not addressed in a proactive manner, these issues can turn into multiparty conflicts and litigation. Not only is this extremely expensive, but it creates stress, anxiety and schisms in families at a time when a family might already be dealing with extremely difficult situations.

Elder mediation is a process by which a mediator assists elders and their family to identify and resolve the problems that often arise. For instance, just on the issue of nursing home care:

  • What happens if the family thinks an elder can no longer live by himself and the elder refuses to move out of the house he has lived in for forty years?
  • What happens if one family member believes his parent should go to a nursing home while another adamantly opposes nursing home care?
  • What if an adult child is concerned about nursing home care wiping out his inheritance while another child is financially independent and has no concerns about that issue?
On issues of the elder's competence:

  • What if family members disagree on whether a parent should continue to drive an automobile?
  • What if one family member wants the elder to maintain her independence and pay her own bills and another family member believes that the elder is at risk of financial exploitation?
  • Other issues may involve decisions about whether it is appropriate to appoint a guardian or conservator. Can the elder still appoint a health care proxy or is the elder no longer competent to do so?

If any one of the above issues are not managed properly, the family may soon find itself embroiled in conflict, allegations, misunderstanding and litigation. Sometimes, however a family meeting facilitated by a neutral trained mediator can not only avoid problems down the road but can also help unify family members.

Despite best intentions, differences in economic security, their geographic distance from a parent, their own family stresses or unique circumstances may cause siblings to have very different approaches to and perspectives on their parent's future and well being. Having a neutral third party knowledgeable in the area of elder affairs can often help family members separate out their needs from their parents and create a plan on which they can all agree.

What areas can elder mediation help address?

Elder mediation can help address issues such as:

  • Guardianship/conservatorship
  • Nursing home care
  • What services are needed in the home
  • Estate planning
  • Medical decisions and options
  • Family care of an elder and avoiding burnout
  • Geriatric care management
  • Communication between family members
  • Money management
  • End of life choices
  • Family reconciliation
  • Estate distribution

Some situations may be relatively simple and discrete while some much more complicated and involved. One family meeting may be all that is necessary to get everyone unified for instance regarding whether a parent should continue to drive. On the other hand, some cases may involve complex decisions involving estate planning that might need to involve estate lawyers but may in the end benefit all family members.

Other Services:

Facilitation: Sometimes, all that may be necessary is one family meeting. There may not in fact be a conflict once everyone involved is in the same room. A professional neutral/mediator can help parties communicate, hear each other and work cooperatively towards a resolution. I have seen many cases where a family meeting before court action had been filed could have avoided much expense and unnecessary heartache.

Conflict Coaching: At times, one or more parties may need assistance in approaching a situation. They may be too emotionally involved to look at the situation rationally. That individual could benefit from a conflict coach helping him or her assess the situation, enhance his or her understanding of the situation and be better able to articulate his or her fears or concerns as well as separating out his or her needs from that of the elder's.

About Oran Kaufman

I have been a mediator since 1994 when I founded Amherst Mediation Services. Since that time, I have mediated hundreds of family law cases. I have mediated divorce and separation cases as well as cases involving family disputes over inheritance, business succession and land disputes. In 2004 I switched my practice to focusing exclusively on mediation, collaborative law, legal counseling and conflict resolution training.

For over 15 years I have represented an agency that provides protective services for elders who have been neglected, abused, exploited or are self-neglecting. In that capacity I have been involved in dozens of cases involving elders and their care. These cases often involve guardianship or conservatorship proceedings. They often involved families in crisis, families in conflict or families in need. In many cases, families are dysfunctional or too families too enmeshed to make reasoned decisions. Nonetheless, what I concluded from early on is that a facilitated family meeting early on can often do wonders and often not only resolves conflicts but strengthens relationships that my have been previously strained.

With more than 20 years of extensive mediation experience and more than 15 years of extensive experience in elder law, I have a unique blend of knowledge, experience and ability to help families with conflicts in this area. I am familiar with the law, resources available in the community and medical and mental health issues that are common in this area.