Aging Parents? Lots of Siblings? Consider Elder Mediation
April 28, 2011 · Posted in Adult Children, Parenting · Permalink

We recently met with colleagues Abby Rosmarin and Tara Sher who work as mediators, providing divorce and family mediation, including a new and growing subspecialty–Elder Mediation. More and more families are raising children and coping with their aging parents medical and financial needs at the same time. Big decisions need to be made–Assisted living vs living with a child?  When should a parent stop driving? How to protect assets? End of life medical choices. A family can experience conflict and even ruptures as they grapple with these issues. Elder Mediation can be a proactive, efficient and thoughtful way to reach family agreements. Here is an excerpt from their blog.

Consider the following scenario. An elder person living on her own begins to think about whether a different living situation where her needs can be better met makes more sense. Her children have conflicting opinions about where she should live and no one really knows the full range of options available or how much they cost. No one, including the mother, can agree on next steps, leaving the family stymied.

Although all involved may have the best interest of the elder at heart, many known and unknown variables often confound the ability of families to communicate effectively. As mediators in this situation, we would speak with each child and the elder individually to formulate a list of concerns to be discussed in a joint family session such as the geographic location where the mother will reside, the plans for the family home, the level of care the mother needs now and how to plan for the future, financial resources to pay for her new residence and care, and responsibilities of each family member in the future.

The mediation may result in the following decisions: (1) hiring a geriatric care manager to assess the mother’s needs and inform the family of appropriate living options based on the assessment; (2) obtaining an appraisal of the fair market value of the mother’s home; and (3) enlisting an elder law attorney or financial advisor to assist in determining how to maximize the mother’s financial resources to cover the cost of her living expenses.

In family sessions, the mediators facilitate discussion of each issue, making sure that each participant has the opportunity to speak. Given the long history involved, elder mediators must also manage the emotions expressed in a way that is productive to the process. When mediation works, participants gain a clearer understanding of what is important to each person at the table and commonality of interests emerge. Once this occurs, the focus shifts to brainstorming ways to address the issue at hand. Before a proposed solution can become a final decision, the mediators check for buy-in from each participant. Only the family members, not the mediators, make decisions.

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