Most people ultimately want to resolve conflicts, even if it feels difficult. Although the parties may express a desire to work on the issues themselves, you may be able to point out that the conflict is still present. You may also want to suggest to your family members that elder mediation provides an opportunity for everyone to share their point of view. The mediator facilitates the discussion so no one person needs to take charge and everyone is included. The goal of mediation is for the group to develop solutions that take everyone’s interests into account. Also, you may want to mention that everything that happens within the mediation is confidential.
We are certainly available to explain the mediation process to anyone and to clarify the importance of each person at the table.
It is ideal for the older adult(s) to participate in the mediation; however, sometimes that is not appropriate. An older adult must be competent to be an active participant. This typically means having an ability to focus on one issue at a time; to take responsibility for one’s own actions; to help identify desired outcomes, and to understand a schedule and deadlines and the role of the mediator.
If an individual is not able to participate directly, an advocate or support person or a legal surrogate may represent the person’s needs. The elder mediator works with the parties to determine who should be present, prior to commencing the mediation.
If the elder is included in the process, it may be necessary to provide accommodations for their participation. Such accommodations may include technological aids such as an interpreter for someone with hearing loss or specific time/duration of session to meet their needs.
The mediation is ideally located in a setting to benefit the older adult’s physical and emotional needs, while also considering the needs of all parties. Most retirement facilities are able to provide a conference room or private dining room for the group to meet, limiting the travel requirement for the elder. Often, an older adult’s home can be the setting for a mediation, if an appropriate table/sitting area is available and as long as the setting is acceptable to all participants. Otherwise, an office setting can be arranged that is conducive to the physical limitations of the participants.
Although it is best if all parties can be face-to-face around a table, sometimes that is not feasible. It is often appropriate to schedule a mediation session when out-of-town family members are visiting.
The mediator will likely want to talk with all parties by phone prior to the group session, including anyone who will not be physically at the table. During the mediation, the mediator will facilitate the conversation so that anyone available via speaker phone is included in the process appropriately.
The first session is scheduled after all the parties are notified and agree to participate. Subsequent sessions, if needed, are scheduled based on the needs of the parties. If some parties are visiting from out-of-town, it may be appropriate to schedule additional sessions quickly, while they are still in town. Certain activities might be required before another session is scheduled. Each situation is different and the needs of all parties are considered throughout the process. Sessions average 1 ½ - 2 hours, based on the physical and mental constraints of the elder and other participants.
Mediation services are paid on an hourly basis. We find that when parties share the cost, the investment in the process is usually greater. The Agreement to Mediate is signed by the parties prior to the first session commencing and it delineates how the payment will be shared We ask for payment at each session.
Mediation can be considered at any point in a conflict, as long as the parties are willing to work together to find a solution. It is much easier to address difficult issues before they get to a boiling point. So, the sooner, the better!
Although attorneys are occasionally parties to a mediation, it is more typical that
they are involved as an advocate to one of the parties. All the parties to the
mediation need to agree on the role of any attorneys before proceeding. Attorneys could act as a legal surrogate for one of the parties, and, as such, would be acting
on behalf of that party. Alternatively, attorneys and/or other professionals may be involved to guide a party directly. The parties need to agree whether the attorney/professional will be present during the mediation and if so, whether they
will speak to the group or only to their client.
Not all mediations result in a mutually agreeable solution. Hopefully, the mediation process will help move the parties toward a better understanding of the others’ interests, even if there is no resolve. Unfortunately, some situations are just not conducive to a facilitated agreement. It is important for all parties to have a vested interest in easing the tough conversations. Without a unanimous desire, mediation may not be able to succeed. Often, some alternatives (or partial alternatives) are revealed through the process that can be beneficial for the parties.