Elder mediation focuses on communication and problem-solving within a family or circle of friends who are concerned about the well-being of an elder. Conflicts may arise between generations, such as between aging parents and their children, or between adult siblings if they slip back into their childhood roles and conflicts.
Typical issues may include parents’ driving habits, whether more in-home care or assisted living is needed, or which sibling is responsible for what aspects of the parent’s care. Mediation can also address more complex issues such as estate planning and inheritance concerns, family business succession, and health care choices.
Usually, the elder’s adult children or friends are quite clear that “something needs to be done” but how this “something” can be accomplished is less clear and can generate heated disagreement among those concerned. Family members who are locked in ongoing conflicts may be unaware of elder mediation and its benefits. In addition, the spouse of the elder may be committed to maintaining the appearance that nothing is wrong.
The mediator is like an impartial musical conductor who sets up conversations, outlines some options, encourages creativity, and cues the participants when it is time to chime in. The elder’s voice carries the melody. Other parties support the melody by exploring options and adapting possibilities to fit their situation. Together, everyone arrives at a final chord: a plan that describes what best meets the elder’s needs and satisfies concerned family and friends.