Caring for an aging parent can be emotional and bring up old, unresolved issues between family members. It is not uncommon for families to disagree on what their mom, dad, or grandparent needs. Everyone has a different opinion and solution. Not only can these disagreements damage family relationships, but they may be detrimental to the elderly person’s care.
With elder law mediation, the goal is to come up with solutions that are best for the aging parent or grandparent and that everyone will accept. Resolving conflict with elder law mediation can save time, money, and relationships.
What Is Elder Law Mediation?
Elder law mediation is a type of conflict resolution where a neutral third party (called a mediator) facilitates a conversation between everyone involved and helps develop a solution. As an alternative to litigation, elder law mediation is a completely voluntary private forum. Meetings are informal and can be held in comfortable settings, like a home, office, or senior living facility. The two main goals of elder law mediation are to reach an agreeable solution and create a communication strategy for decision-making moving forward.
What Does an Elder Mediator Do?
Siblings caring for their elderly parents may not agree on issues like financial decisions, health care treatments, living arrangements, or their potential inheritance. An elder mediator drives the conversation between family members who are at odds, diffusing the situation and helping everyone find common ground. By ensuring all parties have a chance to be heard, the mediator will help keep the focus on reaching an agreement about the elder’s care and well-being. What a mediator will not do is take sides, offer personal opinions about the situation, or decide the outcome of the case.
Most elder mediators are trained professionals that have a background in law, counseling, social work, or geriatric care management. These types of mediators specialize in working with the elderly and their families who disagree on the care and support of their aging parents or grandparents.
When choosing a mediator, it is important to find one that is right for your family. Ask questions about his or her methods and process. Currently, there are no professional qualifications or standards to be an elder mediator, so ask about the mediator’s credentials and experience. Introducing someone who is not a good fit into an already tense situation could be disastrous—so take your time and find someone who is a good fit for your circumstances.
What Is the Importance of Elder Law Mediation?
Families turn to mediation regarding a variety of issues. Ultimately, however, the importance of elder law mediation is that it helps families in conflict to reach a solution that is best for the elderly person. Preserving the integrity and rights of the parent or grandparent is of paramount importance.
Another vital part of elder law mediation is preventing the conflict from going to trial and furthering the emotional divide between family members. With cooperation, mediation can result in mended relationships, a new appreciation for different perspectives, and a clear path forward for everyone involved.
What Issues Can Elder Law Mediation Help Resolve?
Families use mediation to address the following issues:
- Health care needs of the parent;
- Living arrangements;
- Financial decisions;
- End-of-life care;
- Estate planning;
- Asset protection;
- Family communication; and
- Inheritance issues.
Mediation is about bringing the family together to understand each other’s views. If possible, you should include the elderly parent in the mediation sessions. After all, this is about them.
How Does the Elder Law Mediation Process Work?
Although mediation is much less formal than litigation, most mediations follow a general process. Here are the six stages of mediation.
Once everyone is present, the mediator will explain the purpose, goals, and rules of the meeting. Each party then takes a turn discussing their concerns and issues without interruption. It is common to have professionals join the mediation sessions. For example, caregivers, financial advisors, and lawyers can all offer helpful insight as you work toward a common solution.
The mediator will allow the parties to openly discuss and respond to each other. This is a time for explaining why a person feels a certain way or wants something done.
Each party has the chance to speak privately with the mediator. During this time, everyone is typically in separate rooms, but the mediator can go back and forth to discuss options.
At this point, depending on the willingness of the parties, the mediator may bring everyone back together to negotiate directly. This may not happen if the family members will not compromise or time is running out.
If the family can agree on a solution, the mediator will typically write down the agreement and have all parties sign it. In some situations, the resolution may be to hold another session.
How Long Does Elder Mediation Take?
With elder law mediation, it is typical to reach a resolution within a few sessions. Of course, some families may need longer than others, but mediation does not drag out over months or years. When life-changing decisions need to be made now, the mediator will help keep the conversation moving. In cases where families just cannot agree, litigation may be the only option. This is usually in the form of a guardianship proceeding.
When Should You Introduce Elder Law Mediation?
If possible, bring in an elder mediator before issues arise. Hating each other and being at odds is not a requirement for mediation. When the time comes to make an important decision about the elder, having a mediator present may lead to a much more productive family meeting. You can preserve your familial relationships by introducing an elder law mediator early on.
Contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., to Learn More About Elder Law Mediation
If you are interested in using an elder law mediator to help resolve family conflicts, contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. Founding attorney Andrew M. Lamkin has over 15 years of experience in elder law. Contact the office by calling or going online to schedule your free consultation.