Getting into a dispute with your family can be an incredibly stressful and frustrating experience. This is especially true when the disagreement concerns the care or safety of an elderly spouse, parent or other loved one.

If you’re in this situation, mediation may be the answer. Elder mediation can be a very productive way to resolve family disputes in a safe and confidential environment.

Mediation helps families find solutions

The goal of elder mediation is to help families reach a mutually agreeable solution to their problem. The process is facilitated by a mediator, a neutral third party who helps guide the family toward a resolution.

During mediation, the mediator works to facilitate fair and respectful communication. To that end, the mediator will ask questions and try to help the parties identify issues and understand the others’ concerns and points of view. Mediators do not take sides, nor will they force anyone into accepting an outcome they do not want.

Once the family reaches a consensus, the agreement will be put in writing and everyone will receive a copy.

Mediation can resolve many issues

Nearly any family dispute can be resolved in mediation. The important thing is everyone is willing to come to the table and listen to what the others have to say. Some of the issues most commonly addressed in elder mediation include:

  • What type of care the elder needs, and who will provide it
  • Who will support the elder financially
  • Where the elder will live (e.g., with family, in a nursing home, etc.)
  • Whether action is needed to protect a vulnerable adult
  • Whether the elder has capacity to execute legal documents

What to look for in a mediator

Choosing a mediator is a big decision. The most important thing is to choose someone who is experienced, trustworthy and focused on protecting the best interests of the elder at issue. For more information, the AARP has put together a helpful guide to choosing an elder mediator.