What is Mediation?
Mediation is a voluntary method of dispute resolution that allows parties to craft their own solution to a dispute. A neutral third party (the mediator) assists the parties in identifying the issues, generating and evaluating options, and creating an agreeable solution. Mediators never impose decisions on the parties but encourage the parties to find common ground and resolve the dispute on their own terms.
Mediation can be a safe and confidential process that addresses all aspects of the dispute — whether the issues are financial, legal, or emotional.
Unlike a judge or arbitrator who listens to both sides and makes a decision for the parties, a mediator assists the parties to develop their own solution. Although mediators sometimes provide ideas, suggestions, or even formal proposals for settlement, the mediator is primarily a “process person,” helping the parties define the agenda, identify and reframe the issues, communicate more effectively, find areas of common ground and negotiate fairly and respectfully. A successful mediation effort has an outcome that is accepted and owned by the parties themselves.
What is Elder Mediation?
Elder Mediation involves a dispute where an older adult is a party or the subject of the dispute.
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 elder family member. Long-standing conflicts, sometimes going back to childhood, can cloud decision-making and increase stress.
Some of the issues most commonly addressed in Elder Mediation include:
- Where will the elder will live (e.g., with family, in a nursing home, assisted living community, adult family home, etc.)?
- How will the elder’s financial needs be met?
- How can the family balance the elder’s autonomy with the need for safety?
- Who will serve as the elder’s fiduciary (i.e., Guardian, Agent under a Durable Power of Attorney, Trustee, or Health Care Agent)?
- Should a family caregiver be compensated?
- What tasks will each family member be responsible for?
- How will disputes over end-of-life decisions be resolved?
- How will care decisions and finances be handled in the case of blended families?
- Is action is needed to protect a vulnerable adult?
- How can the family improve communication and transparency?
- How will past loans or gifts to family members be addressed?
Elder Mediation can occur before or after legal proceedings have been started. A petition for guardianship, a petition for an order of protection of a vulnerable adult, or a contested probate may all be suitable matters for Elder Mediation.