Many people have heard of mediation in the context of divorce or business disputes, but it can be used to resolve any type of conflict. In the area of elder law or elder care, it is particularly useful because these disputes typically occur between family members where hopefully, the parties want to maintain a relationship even after the issue is settled.
Individuals often need to deal with major life changes that are part of their aging, such as physical and mental limitations. These can lead to conflicts between the older adult and loved ones or among various family members when the older adult cannot make decisions regarding his/her own care. For example, disputes can occur when one child becomes caretaker and the other children disagree with the caretaker’s decisions, feel he/she has undue influence with the parent, or object to compensating the caretaker. Similarly, where the senior can no longer manage his/her financial or personal matters, a guardian may need to be appointed and family members may fight over the appointment or decisions made by the guardian. Potential inheritance may also give rise to arguments as when a parent discloses that he/she is intending to leave heirs an unequal inheritance or gives monetary gifts to some family members and not others.
Elder mediation is a voluntary process whereby a skilled and impartial professional facilitates discussion and settlement among the parties. The mediator doesn’t impose a decision, but does help the family listen to each other, constructively deal with negative emotions and stay focused on their goals. Through this process, the objective is for the parties to find agreement and devise their own solution.
Among the benefits of elder mediation is that it lays the foundation for future communication and compromise. Elder law and elder care disputes raise very personal and emotional issues. While everyone may care about the older adult, each has his/her own perspective based on their perceived position and relationship within the family. Mediation allows the parties to air grievances but find common ground. This helps them to heal after the dispute is resolved and address any new issues that may arise in the future more cooperatively.
In addition, mediation gives the parties control over the process and settlement. Each party has time to present their side and respond to the other party. Mediation ends when the parties reach an agreement, or when either party wishes to terminate discussion. Because the process is not adversarial or subject to court calendars and deadlines, it also tends to be faster and less expensive than litigation.
As you age, it is important to discuss your estate and long-term care planning with an attorney who can also advise you in how to discuss your wishes with family members. If you and your family are arguing, mediation may be the answer.
I am an experienced elder law attorney who helps clients implement their wishes through drafting appropriate documents as well as providing guidance on mediation. I can act as a mediator to help resolve disputes as well as be an advisor in connection with an ongoing mediation. It is important that a person engaged in the mediation process be informed about the law; knowledgeable about the issues that need to be resolved; and able to identify his/her individual goals.
If you need assistance, contact me for a consultation.