What is Elder Mediation? And, how can it help our family?
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.
How Does Elder Mediation Help?
Elder Mediation facilitates meaningful discussion with dignity, sensitivity and respectful communication to assist families as they plan for life’s changes. In fact, one might even call it a ‘family meeting’ with a bit of help. Some areas of conflict may be end of life topics, change of residence, healthcare, safety, and other intergenerational issues.
A skilled elder mediator creates an atmosphere of safety and respect, listens deeply to each participant’s interests and concerns, brings clarity to the issues at hand, recognizes important thoughts to discuss, and assists in exploring options.
The experienced mediators at O’Neal Elder Mediation are highly skilled conflict resolution experts and are neutral facilitators who do not provide advice or “take sides” in these discussions, but rather identify points of agreement and help the parties discover mutually acceptable solutions. Bottom line, mediation is about making your own decisions, not having someone else make them for you.
Our mediators have had specialized training in dealing with the aging population, their families and specific issues. 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.
Essentially, Elder Mediation provides a forum for family decision-making. It is private, confidential and completely voluntary. Our 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.
Disputes Among Adult Siblings
Perhaps the most difficult disputes of all are those in which family members, with or without the participation of the elder, must decide about the elder’s personal care and financial circumstances. These highly emotional issues often arise at a time of crisis when family members are least able to make rational decisions and can aggravate long dormant, unresolved or poorly resolved family disputes.
Conflicts that may have simmered below the surface for years can boil up and make family conversations very difficult. Siblings, dealing with differences in their own geographic, economic and family situations, often find working together challenging and they may have spouses who hold strong views of their own. Thoughtful decision-making can seem all but impossible.
Caregiver burnout and inheritance issues are common in families and require difficult conversations. Health, financial and caregiving concerns are serious and demand that all family members weigh in with their views. In mediation, siblings are often able to reach consensus and develop successful communication systems which allow them to successfully address future decisions as a family.
How Assets Will Be Handled and Who Will Be Involved
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, at a time 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. Courts rarely have the time or resources to explore options that would reflect the best interests of the senior while avoiding protracted family conflict. Mediation is efficient; once agreements are reached, documentation can be legally recognized without long drawn-out proceedings followed by potential appeals and more proceedings…all the while damaging the family, upsetting the senior, and draining finances.
Early intervention is always best, before the family is in crisis. It allows family dynamics, including sibling rivalries, to be addressed at a time when everyone is calm, when thoughtful decision-making can occur. A trained third party neutral, a mediator, 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, without the emotions a crisis brings to the forefront.
When your family needs more than just yourselves, we are here to help. Contact us today at 208-660-3774 for your free 30-minute consultation.
by Gary & Cathy O’Neal, O’Neal Mediation Services
Gary and Cathy O’Neal are Certified Professional Mediators who are passionate about people and peacemaking. They have served for more than 30 years together in ministry and management. Each has a reputation for providing professional assistance to individuals in the are of dispute resolution and relationship development. To learn more about them, go to https://www.facebook.com/onealmediation/