What is Elder Mediation?

Conflicts around eldercare issues can cause serious divisions within families that can fester for years if not addressed. These conflicts are often based on misunderstandings that can be traced to family dynamics in childhood. Often when there is a family conflict, most of the emphasis is placed upon the conflict itself, even though the family members probably have a much larger area of agreement than disagreement. Typically, family members with serious conflict want to maintain a positive relationship, but they feel the conflict seriously gets in the way.

There are a number of professionals who help resolve conflict and help divergent parties reach agreement in the eldercare area. If these professionals are successful, there obviously is no need for mediation. Often, the professionals do not have the time or expertise to devote to complex disputes. Mediation is a specific process, which is defined not only by the process, but also by the relationship the mediator has with the parties.

  1. The elder mediator is impartial and neutral. The mediator does not advocate for any one party but is an advocate for the process. This impartiality differentiates the mediator from other elder care professionals whose job it is to advocate for one of the parties.
  2. The mediation process is voluntary. The mediator must be invited by all the parties to become involved. Any of the parties may leave the mediation at any time.
  3. The mediation process is non-adversarial. The parties do not have to take positions or convince the mediator of the merits of their position. The mediator is a process facilitator and helps the parties discover their common interests and find mutually satisfying solutions.
  4. The cornerstone of the mediation process is self-determination of all the parties. When the parties feel listened to and acknowledged, believe the agreement reflects the best of the options available, and trust that they were not coerced into agreement, there is a greater probability that all the parties will follow the agreement.
  5. The mediator’s role is to construct a process that will allow the parties to be listened to and acknowledged, have their interests identified and addressed, and to assist the parties in addressing as many interests as possible.
  6. Elder mediators sometimes use other experts, such as care managers or financial professionals, in the mediation process.
  7. A critical aspect of the elder mediation process is to include the interests of the elder. There are a number of ways this can be accomplished even if the elder is unable to directly participate in the mediation.
  8. Elder mediation moves at the pace comfortable for all the parties. Sometimes special accommodations need to be made for the elder or the other parties so all can participate as fully as possible. It is the job of the mediator to design an equitable process.
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