Elder care mediation is a relatively new profession and one that will be increasingly needed as more boomers care for their aging parents and also as they become elders themselves. This article assumes that care of the aging parent is a new consideration, and that there is no on-going litigation or charges of abuse within the family.
In a study reported by Deborah B. Gentry, it was determined that nearly 40% of adult children acting as caregivers had serious conflicts with one or more siblings regarding the care of their parents. Many times, this was due to the lack of participation of one of the siblings, arguments over finances or disagreements on where Mom or Dad should live. With a help of a mediator, these issues can be sorted out in a private, non-threatening setting where the family (including the parents) meets together.
Eldercare mediators have taken classes in this type of mediation. They may be nurses, social workers, gerontologists or they may also be attorneys themselves. (If they are attorneys, they do not practice law during the mediation service.)
What does an eldercare mediator do?
they are a neutral 3rd party who helps with decision-making processes
they help clear up misunderstandings within the family by knowing the right questions to ask
they provide for expression of feelings and yet, keep the family on tract
they help the family heal hurts, avoid blame and self-pity
they help the family consider as many options as possible
they provide for future modification of the decisions made
all discussions in the process are confidential
Mediators do NOT:
Make any of the decisions themselves
Provide family therapy
Who is involved in the meeting?
Parents and siblings should be present. The meeting may also include spouses, grandchildren, other close relatives, close family friends, caregivers, medical providers, pastoral leaders and lawyers.
What is discussed at the meeting?
This is up to the family members but some ideas for discussion include living arrangements and possible assistance for the parent(s), driving ability, end-of-life provisions, financial concerns, trust and estate issues, division of responsibility among the siblings, etc.
The advantages of hiring a mediator are that parents (or spouse) must give permission for the meeting to take place, thereby maintaining their dignity and autonomy by being involved as much as possible. Also, if help is needed, financial and task responsibilities can be divided up equally among the children (siblings) or a care contract for a sibling that volunteers to be the primary caregiver can be discussed. Obstacles are more easily overcome when using a mediator who can keep the family focused on the goal of caring for the parent (or spouse) in the best possible way. Family relationships are also improved because everyone is kept in the loop. Those siblings who are unable to attend due to physical constraints can participate by telephone or even on the internet.
The cost of an eldercare mediator is about $100.00 – $300.00 per hour but is a good investment in maintaining or building family unity and working to provide a good outcome for your aging parent(s) or loved ones.
Eldercare mediators can be found through state and local Area Agencies on Aging, attorneys specializing in elder law, geriatric care managers, Alzheimer’s Association (especially support groups) and the health department.