Elder Mediation Can Help Families Resolve Caregiving Conflicts

Are there any services that you know of that help families resolve caregiving conflicts? My mother - who just turned 82 - recently had a stroke, and to make matters worse, my two siblings and I have been perpetually arguing about how to handle her caregiving needs and finances.

It's not unusual for adult children to disagree with each other regarding the care of an elder parent. If your siblings are willing, a good possible solution is to hire an "elder care mediator" who can help you work through your disagreements peacefully. Here's what you need to know.

Elder Mediation

While mediators have been used for years to help divorcing couples sort out legal and financial disagreements and avoid court battles, elder care mediation is relatively new. It is a specialized service designed to help families resolve disputes that are related to aging parents or other elderly relatives.

Family disagreements over an ill or elderly parent's caregiving needs, living arrangements, financial decisions and medical care are some of the many issues that an elder care mediator can help with. But don't confuse this with family or group therapy. Mediation is focused on decision-making, not feelings and emotions.

The job of an elder mediator is to step in as a neutral third-party to help ease family tensions, listen to everyone's concerns, hash out disagreements or misunderstandings and help your family make decisions that are acceptable to everyone.

Good mediators can also connect you with experts, such as estate-planners, geriatric care managers, healthcare professional and financial experts who can supply important information for family decision-making.

Your family also needs to know that the mediation process is completely confidential and voluntary. It can take anywhere from a few hours to several meetings depending on the complexity of your issues. Also, if some family members live far away, a conference or video call can be used to bring everyone together.

If you're interested in hiring a private elder care mediator, you can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to more than $500 per hour depending on where you live and who you choose. Alternatively, you may be able to get help through a nonprofit community mediation service that charges little to nothing.

Finding a Mediator

To locate an elder mediator, start by contacting your area aging agency, which may be able to refer you to local resources (call 800-677-1116 to obtain your local number). You can also search for your area agency online at Mediate.com. Another good option is the National Association for Community Mediation website (nafcm.org), which can help you search for free or low cost community-based mediation programs in your area.

Unfortunately, there is currently no formal licensing or national credentialing required for elder mediators, so make sure the person you choose has extensive experience with elder issues that are similar to what your family is dealing with. Also, be sure you ask for references and check them. Most elder mediators are attorneys, social workers, counselors or other professionals who are trained in mediation and conflict resolution.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.


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