- What is mediation?
Mediation is a voluntary process to reduce or prevent conflict. An impartial third party acts as a facilitator. All parties are involved on a voluntary basis and information shared in the mediation process is confidential. Issues that are mediated include divorce, workplace, construction and family matters.
The first step of mediation is to determine who the parties are and to introduce the concept. When the parties have all agreed to go forward, everyone signs an agreement to mediate. The participants each have an opportunity to share thoughts and concerns from their own perspective. The mediator helps to identify the important issues shared by all and guides the parties to develop solutions together. Often, the outcomes shaped by the group process are more creative than anyone could have developed alone.
- What is elder mediation?
Elder mediation involves the resolution of conflicts that put older adults at risk. Typically the parties include various family members. Other parties might be employees of a retirement facility, guardians, neighbors or friends. And, older adults are usually included in the mediation process.
Elder mediation is a win-win solution to bring together people who have a vested interest in maintaining relationships. Often, family members are not aware of available services and resources for their parents. The elder mediation process may provide an instructive role, helping parties become familiar with relevant information. One of the beauties of elder mediation is that in addition to resolving current conflicts, families gain communication skills to use in the future.
- When can elder mediation help?
Communication patterns within our nuclear families often dominate the way we talk to each other as adults. When our parents’ health begins to fail, these routines may or may not work very well. Sometimes, family secrets or taboo subjects cast a shadow on our relationships, making open conversation difficult. The ability to talk about serious issues may be effortless between some members of the family while others are left out. Some siblings purposefully distance themselves from family issues, while others might appear to be overly involved.
When an elder needs family support, it is important to work together as a cohesive unit. When there are important things to discuss, but it is difficult to initiate tough conversations, elder mediation may be the answer.
The goal of elder mediation is to provide a mechanism for all parties to tell their stories and for all interests to be considered. Nobody knows the family structure as well as the people involved. When families lack the ability to resolve issues about the care of an older adult, mediation can provide the necessary bridge.
- If you provide a caregiving role for an older family member,
you may be experiencing exhaustion, caregiver burnout, depression, disagreements with other family members and/or concern about how to get through the day without a crisis.
It is important for you, as a caregiver, to consider your own well being, though most caregivers don’t allow themselves regular self-assessments. Many books and articles point to the need for a caregiver’s physical and emotional health as a prerequisite for appropriate support of a care recipient. Of course, most caregivers don’t have time and energy to read books and articles!
It is crucial that you pay attention to your own needs, even if family issues are affecting your emotions. The situation might involve other family members criticizing, disapproving or ignoring your role as caregiver. Perhaps your siblings just don’t understand the immense effort required to care for an older family member. If the family circle cannot address these hurdles effectively, it may be necessary to turn to a professional for assistance.
Elder mediation assists caregivers to discuss tough subjects with their family members and to work toward creative solutions that benefit all.
- If you are a long-distance caregiver with no local family members,
you may worry about your loved one and wonder what you can do to support their needs. Regular phone calls may not provide the true state of affairs, as older adults may mask the truth, omitting important details.
One solution would be to hire a geriatric care manager, who can assess the elder’s needs, develop a care plan and provide ongoing monitoring, as appropriate. Care managers are often called "surrogate siblings", providing the type and level of care that you would like to provide yourself, if only you lived closer.
When family members have ongoing disagreements over the elder’s care, such as residency decisions or home care, a mediator may be appropriate to unite the family towards common issues. A geriatric care manager advocates for the older adult’s needs. An elder mediator is an impartial party, involving the concerns of all generations. Often, new ideas are generated through the process of mediation that nobody would have thought of on their own!
- If you are a long-distance caregiver and another family member provides local care,
you may worry about your loved one and wonder if your family member acts the way that you and the elder would expect. Is your sister taking care of herself or is she on the verge of burnout? Does you brother manage the finances properly or is he spending Mom’s money in haste? Does he make the right choices for the elder or is he perhaps influenced by his own needs? Has she considered alternatives?
Chances are that if you are asking these questions, you are not sure that you trust your family member completely. Though, if you are not able to provide frequent care yourself, you also may be feeling some level of guilt. A variety of emotions may be influencing your conversations with your siblings. When these conversations are unable to reach happy, pleasant conclusions, everyone may suffer.
Elder mediation helps parties get past the emotions so they can really work on the issues at hand. Everyone has a chance to tell their story and to air their concerns. The mediator guides the participants to focus on the relevant topics, while taking everyone’s interests into consideration. The goal of elder mediation is to find solutions that benefit everyone, enhancing the family unit.
- If you are a caregiver to a spouse or significant other,
you want to make sure that your loved one is treated just the way that he/she wants. You may believe that you are the only one who can do that job and do it right. After all, you’ve been together for a whole lot of years!
Perhaps you are hearing various suggestions from family members. They may recommend that you spend less time caregiving and more time taking care of yourself. Perhaps they are advocating for a move to a retirement facility – for both of you. It may be difficult to comprehend how to rely on others when your life partner totally relies on you. As friction in the family increases, your ability to do what you feel you have to do may be in jeopardy. How can you get those kids to just leave you alone? After all, this is your life, isn’t it?
Elder mediation may be the answer. It is an opportunity to tell your kids what you should have told them years ago and to do so in a safe environment. It is also a good setting to hear what they have to say. After all, there may be something reasonable in their thoughts. You may not want to let them get their way completely; perhaps there is a middle ground – as long as your desires (and those of your partner) have a voice. Elder mediation can help you achieve these goals.
Located in Denver, Colorado