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Elder and Family Mediation Services

What happens when seniors face major life transitions and their adult children are embroiled in painful and unrelenting conflict? Issues like residence decisions, distribution of caregiving responsibilities, safety and health concerns, wills and estates, the sale of the family home, and more can divide a family for years to come. When communication is difficult and critical decisions are put on hold, families may need the help of a skilled mediator to get them "unstuck" so they can move forward.
 
What Is Elder Mediation?
Elder mediation provides a forum for family decision-making. It is private, confidential and completely voluntary. Mediators facilitate a purposeful and directed conversation in which family members are encouraged to express their interests and concerns. Meetings are informal and are held in locations which meet the family's needs, including private homes, mediators' offices and senior living facilities. The mediator is a highly skilled conflict resolution expert and a neutral facilitator who does not provide advice or "takes sides" in these discussions. The goals of mediation are twofold. First to allow families to create workable and mutually acceptable solutions to their difficult disputes and second to develop communication strategies to enable them to successfully work together to make important decisions in the future.
 
Why Families Choose Mediation

In mediation, people deal with the problems and issues under dispute in a timely fashion and in privacy. It is a cooperative rather than an adversarial process, so participants are often able to repair their strained relationships. Because family members develop their own solutions, which reflect their family's unique situation, satisfaction with the outcome is quite high and these resolutions tend to be workable and long lasting.

Furthermore, due to the adversarial nature of litigation, courtroom proceedings can destroy already fragile relationships. Accordingly, when families go to court, even the "winners" often lose. In mediation, family members can control both the process and the outcome rather than leaving it in the hands of attorneys and judges. And it means that all family members can be heard. In addition, because the parties control the process, in most cases mediation is significantly less costly than litigation both emotionally and in terms of time and money.
 
Early Intervention Is Best
Issues related to aging parents are as varied as families themselves. Despite this uniqueness, there are similar financial, legal, and medical decisions that need to be made. These include, but are not limited to caregiving, trusts, wills, health care proxies, and housing choices. Too often these issues are avoided, disagreed upon, and/or ignored, resulting in fewer choices, financial loss, and emotional turmoil for the individual and family. While by no means easy, working through these challenges with an elder mediator can be a real opportunity for families to preserve financial and familial well being.
 
Mediation isn't simply an alternative to litigation, a "last resort" forum without the lawyers. Elder mediation is just as effective, and often more effective, at the beginning of the decision-making process - when people are fact finding, struggling with options and discovering feelings about their parents, their siblings or other family members that well up and make clear thinking difficult. The process of mediation allows families to develop creative solutions to challenges in a way that the courts cannot. For courts rarely have the time or resources to explore options that would reflect the best interests of the senior while avoiding protracted family conflict. And mediation is efficient. No long-drawn-out proceedings followed by potential appeals and more proceedings...all the while damaging the family, upsetting the senior, and draining finances and early intervention is always best, before the family is in crisis. When an important family discussion is needed about a developing major life transition, a trained third party neutral can simply convene a family meeting to create the space for everyone to be heard. This type of meeting can strengthen family ties and enable all family members to deal with the changing nature of their relationships and the realities of their situation. It allows family dynamics, including sibling rivalries, to be addressed at a time when everyone is calm and thoughtful decision-making can occur.
 
It should be noted that these family meetings often involve not just family members but appropriate professionals like lawyers, geriatric care managers and financial planners. These professionals are encouraged to attend as their expertise, coupled with their insights into the family's needs, is usually very helpful.

E
lder mediators are aware of the stresses and challenges which often arise among siblings when aging parents face inevitable life transitions. Caregiver burnout and inheritance issues are common in families and require difficult conversations. Health, financial and caregiving concerns are serious issues demanding that all family members weigh in with their views. As family members seek to equitably share the burdens and resources of the family, their individual perceptions of fairness are critical and must be aired and considered in a collaborative setting. Families sometimes decide to include spouses and other influential parties in some or all of these conversations.

In mediation, siblings are often able to reach consensus around these and other difficult issues. As a result of the mediation process, they often find that they develop successful communication systems which allow them to successfully address future decisions as a family.