Elder Mediation

Future Planning for all the Family

Elder Mediation

It is never easy to talk about getting older and the challenges it can bring for individuals and their families. But, since the pandemic and the impact it has had on our lives, emotionally, physically, psychologically, and financially, the time to talk about realities is now.

And talking really does help, as it provides clarity for all involved. It reduces uncertainty, confusion, tension and importantly, reduces the potential for family fallouts or disputes.

Identifying how an individual wants to spend their final years and communicating that message to family and friends is an important task.

This is where Elder Mediation can really help as it an opportunity for parties directly affected by the decisions that need to be made to explore possibilities and reality-test decisions.

In effect, it is future planning for all the family as it offers a flexible framework for the older person and their families to have discussions and to make informed decisions about their care and their future with the help of a trained professional.

Elder Mediation puts the older person to the fore so that any decisions are based not only on their needs but also on their personal preferences. It is a process to enhance quality of life and an important step in the continuum of care for older people and can be adapted to suit the unique requirements of each situation.

It is equally effective as a preventative measure – to promote and enhance continued quality of life for the older person and their family – and as a remedial intervention, to address issues that are impacting on the older person and/or family members.

It is a collaborative process that can include key personnel, for example, hospital staff, nursing home or care representatives, in addressing the challenges and changes that can arise for older people and their families.

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And while each family is unique there are a surprising number of matters that may need to be considered and that can benefit from elder mediation. This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives an idea of the types of issues that often arise: 

  • Retirement
  • Driving
  • Housing and living and maintenance arrangements
  • Health care (at home, in hospital or in continuing care or long-term care)
  • Medical decisions
  • Nursing home decisions
  • Safety and environment
  • Care for the caregiver as well as caregiver burden
  • Relationship concerns (this includes intergenerational relationships as well as new marriages and stepfamily situations)
  • Holiday schedules
  • Family pets
  • Financial concerns
  • Estate planning
  • Family business
  • Guardianship issues
  • End of life issues
  • Burial
  • Distribution of assets that are generally not mentioned in wills such as personal effects – clothes, books, ornaments, jewellery, and other things that might be of little financial value but of enormous sentimental value

And, of course, there are the legal issues such as:

  • Power of Attorney
  • Advance Directives
  • Wills
  • Trusts
Elder Mediation

For example, who will take care of a beloved pet if the owner is no longer able to take care of them, is often on the agenda for discussion.

In addition, families can be fragile entities and a sudden health crisis cause a lot of stress.  An uprising of long-buried emotions, resentments, fears, and jealousies within families can leads to arguments, no decisions being made and no positive outcome for anyone, including the person that matters the most in this situation, the person who needs it the most.  

Preparation for the inevitable does not hasten its arrival. Helping those you love by making sure their wishes are understood and respected is a gift that can save everyone additional grief.

This is just a sample of the types of topics that might need to be discussed. They cannot all be dealt with at once, nor should they be, and an elder mediator will guide people by identifying which are the most pressing, which are the easiest to solve, which are the more difficult and which may require greater periods of time to resolve.

Kathleen Kauth, a respected elder mediator in the United States advises that the general rule of thumb about aging is that people should communicate their wishes early and often to their families and to those who will be involved.

The benefits of this are:

  • Families and friends are aware and familiar with the individuals wishes. The more frequently families have these discussions, the easier they become.
  • Talking hypothetically – if this happens, this is what I want… – is much easier, as there tends to be less emotion and more logic applied.
  • Once decisions have been made and put down in writing, families then have a plan to follow when the need arises. This tool can be adjusted as life situations change and will mitigate the stress and trauma of an already difficult situation.
  • Reduces threat of family fallout, disputes, and litigation.

Case Study

Elder Mediation

Mary, a widower, was recently diagnosed with a degenerative illness.

She has five children, all of whom are married and have children of their own.

Mary, lives on her own, and is very independent and active, but, will in time, require increasing care. She now wants to put a plan in place so that everybody is clear on her wishes.

Mary’s primary concern is that she would like to stay in her own home for as long as possible. She has lived there for more than 50 years – all her friends live close by and all amenities are within easy walking distance.  

She does not want to go into a nursing home as she has a dog to whom she is devoted, and she thinks that nursing homes do not allow pets.

However, she does not want to be a burden on her children who have their own busy lives to deal with, but she acknowledges that she may need their help as her illness progresses.

Mary contacts Lingwood Mediation.

The Process

  • First meeting is with Mary to understand her wishes and to itemise issues that she wants to discuss with her family.
  • Second meeting is with Mary and her five children via Zoom as two of her children live abroad, where with the help of the mediator, Mary sets out her wishes and gets feedback from her children.
  • Third and subsequent meetings:
    • Immediate choices that need to be made are discussed and rotas and arrangements are put in place. They include issues such as provision of home help, driving arrangements, help with maintenance of Mary’s home, pet care if Mary needs to stay in hospital other medical matters.
    • For example, the family agree that mum should stay in her home for as long as possible but they do feel that mum should not be driving anymore (and Mary agrees) and a rota is drawn up so that the three children who live relatively close by will drive Mary to and from doctor’s appointments, the shops, hairdressers, and social events, etc. This rota does not prevent any of her children from visiting her whenever they want, it just provides certainty as to whose turn it is to drive mum wherever she needs to go.
    • Long-term arrangements – “What happens in the event that …” These conversations are not easy to have, but they do help provide greater clarity and certainty for all involved and reduce the stress and pressure of having to make difficult decisions in an already very difficult situation.

Conclusion

Ageing is a natural process that can bring interpersonal, physical, legal, financial, and emotional challenges for individuals and their families.

Talking about end of life issues is never fun and seldom easy and considering the pandemic that has changed our worlds and has had such an impact on the health and well-being of so many people, primarily older adults and those with pre-existing conditions, the time to talk about unpleasant possibilities is now.

But talking does help as it reduces confusion, provides clarity, and reduces stress, tension and the potential for family fallouts or disputes.

According to a 2018 survey, 92% of people say that talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important. Yet only 32% have done so.

Workplace Mediation

Mediation has become an indispensable tool in dealing with workplace disputes.  Without intervention, conflict can be very costly, very time consuming and potentially damaging. Mediation offers the chance to seek resolution in an informal and confidential manner by focusing on finding solutions in each individual case.

Elder Mediation

Elder Mediation is future planning for all the family, while putting the elder person(s) to the fore of the conversation. Talking about aging is never easy but having that conversation with the help of a trained mediator reduces uncertainty, confusion, tension and importantly, reduces the potential for family fallouts or disputes.

Family Mediation

The breakup of a relationship is never easy, and it is understandably a process that many people find difficult to navigate. Every situation is unique and, regardless of whether parties are married,  cohabitating, or heterosexual or same-sex couples, mediation is worth considering as it allows people to focus on finding the best solution to their own situation. 

“Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional.”

Max Lucade