Eldercare mediation is the process of working with someone to help families deal with the legal, health, and emotional issues that come with aging. It's based on the idea that, with a little help, family members can find the best solutions to family problems.
Families often choose mediators to help them figure out things like:
- Where is the best place for Mom and Dad to live?
- Should Mom or Dad still be driving?
- Who will care for them?
- What kind of care do they need?
- How will their care be paid for?
- What kind of end-of-life care do they want?
- Who should have financial or medical power of attorney for them?
Mediation can get emotional. But it's important to remember that the goal of the mediation process is to make decisions, not to explore family members' feelings and emotions.
Why choose eldercare mediation?
Families may choose eldercare mediation because it's a good way to settle tough family problems without hiring attorneys. It's usually faster and costs less than going to court.
Left to themselves and with a good mediator to help them along, family members can often solve family problems. And since they come up with the solutions themselves, they are more likely to make sure that the solutions work.
When should a family choose eldercare mediation?
Mediation is a good choice when elder family members aren't mentally competent enough to make decisions all on their own. A mediator can make sure that these older adults have a say in what happens to them. This can be reassuring to elders who may feel like the choices being made about them are out of their control.
Sometimes a judge will order a family to use a mediator. But things usually go better when someone in the family makes the suggestion. Elderly parents can also add a rule to their will or living trust. The rule would require that the family use mediation to help solve family problems.
What does an eldercare mediator do?
You may use a trained eldercare mediator or someone else. But the important thing is to find someone outside of your family who can:
- Run the meetings without favoring any one side.
- Make sure that everyone is heard, including the parent(s)—even if the parent has Alzheimer's or dementia.
- Help the family settle issues that keep them apart.
- Help family members find solutions that work for the whole family.
How to begin eldercare mediation
Eldercare mediation is a process of working with a social worker or trained eldercare mediator who helps families make decisions about legal, health, and emotional issues that can come with aging. As part of the elder mediation process, the family works together on the following steps.
- Decide who should take part in the mediation.
The elderly parents and their children usually attend the mediation sessions (even if that means taking part via phone or computer or both). The sessions can also include adult children's spouses, other relatives, the elderly patients' friends, pastors, medical providers, or social workers.
- Find a mediator.
To find eldercare mediators, talk with social workers or eldercare agencies in your community. You can also try the National Care Planning Council (www.longtermcarelink.net). If you decide to hire a trained eldercare mediator, be aware that anyone can call himself or herself a mediator. Mediators aren't licensed.
- Choose a mediator.
The person you choose may be a trained eldercare mediator. Or it may be a social worker or any person your family feels comfortable with as a mediator. When you interview people to serve as your mediator, find out if they have the training and experience to deal with the legal, health, and emotional issues that come with aging.
- Set a clear goal.
Agree as a family on one clear goal. Trying to solve too many things at once can get confusing and make the mediation process last too long.
- Set a clear time limit.
When you've all agreed on a goal, give yourselves a specific amount of time to reach it.
- Start talking.
When family members can agree on the final goal, the mediator can help them get there. If they can't agree, whatever progress they've made through the mediation process can help if the issue goes to court.
Current as of: October 18, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Catherine D. Serio PhD - Behavioral Health
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Christine Fordyce MD - Family Medicine, Geriatric Medicine