What is Elder Mediation?
- Elder mediation is a systematic process in which a neutral, trained professional mediator assists an older adult and family identify and negotiate issues of common concern.
- It is a way to bring about agreement or reconciliation in disputes over aging related problems.
- It is a confidential and voluntary process.
- Elder Mediation fosters deliberation that can move participants beyond differences to new possibilities and solutions to meet common interests.
Why might one want to use mediation services?
- Facing some of the difficult decisions of aging can be very distressing. It can also be so intimidating that one wants to put one’s head in the sand.
- Healthy aging, however, requires us to do more. We need to at least occasionally face some very unpleasant circumstances, have some challenging family conversations, and make some difficult decisions if we wish to sustain individual and family long-term interests and well-being.
- Mediation is an approach to dispute resolution that can significantly aid you in dealing with those difficult conversations and decisions.
- Mediation can help families systematically identify essential issues and challenges.
- It enables broad consideration of many resources, possibilities and solutions.
- It can aid families make the important decisions and agreements that fit their unique circumstances.
- It can help minimize conflict, cost and heartache.
What are some of the specific areas appropriate for mediation for seniors?
You don't need to wait until a contlict becomes intense. Mediation works well when families use it to facilitate challenging conversations on a variety of topics such as:
- Parent- Adult Child Conflict
- Financial Decisions
- Living Arrangement Changes
- Power of Attorney
- Patient-Provider Disputes
- Sibling Conflict
- End-of-Life Choices
- Family Reconciliation
Does mediation work?
When seniors are not part of the conversations and decisions that affect them, they often fare poorly, both physically and emotionally. In contrast, when seniors have input into the decisions that impact them and their family, there is 85-90% compliance with those decisions (Source: American Bar Association, Elden and Ziebarth, March, 1999).
Why does it work?
- Mediation recognizes that all who come to the table have perspectives and experiences worthy of respect.
- It ensures that all have a voice. It is interesting to note that, regardless of outcomes, many clients report that the opportunity to “have my say,” and be heard is one of the most valuable factors contributing to their mediation success.
- It allows decision-making power over issues and outcomes to remain with those most affected.
- Mediation curtails expensive litigation and court costs.
- By encouraging fair consensual problem solving, it produces joint decisions that are more likely to be kept.
- It permits matters to be resolved and solutions to be developed in a more robust and timely manner.
- Mediation offers a way that frequently yields less emotional damage.
- It often assists in repairing or at least making peace with conflicted relationships.
- It allows the elder to ask for help without fear of being declared “incompetent.”
- Elder mediation supports family connections that lessen al
- Most providers are licensed mental health professionals, attorneys, nurses, or geriatric care managers.
- They usually have also completed at least a 40-hour basic training program in mediation, e.g. through a local bar association, university, or mediation training organization.
- Most have additional education and training in other areas of family and elder mediation, and have acquired advanced knowledge about conflict and conflict resolution, as well as older adult development, senior resources, family communication and elder law.
- While there is no formal licensing requirement to be an Elder Mediator, most mediators are guided by the Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators developed by the American Bar Association, Association for Conflict Resolution and American Arbitration Association.
What does mediation cost?
- In some communities, mediation services are available at no or minimal cost via community service organizations for older adults or conflict resolution centers.
- Generally, fees for private mediation vary from $100 - $300 per hour, depending on the experience and training of the mediator and/or whether co-mediation (e.g. with two professionals) is used.
- Elder mediation is a time-sensitive process, such that cases can take as little 2-3 hours, and some may take 2-3 meetings requiring 4-10 hours. Of course, there are some situations that require more time.
- Mediation can usually be arranged quickly and fees are often split amongst multiple family members.
- In addition, many providers have “packages” and sliding fees, and many do some pro-bono work.
- Finally, mediation is almost always far less expensive than going to court.
Where can I find an Elder Mediator?
- Go to the referral directory at www.Mediate.com.
- Google: “Elder Mediator + [Your State]”
- Contact a local nonprofit organization serving seniors.
- Check to see if your state or city has a Council of Mediators, and/or an Office of Dispute Resolution, and give them a call.
How can I learn more?
- Call any mediator you locate, and they will almost always be glad to answer questions.
- NPR Article and Podcast www.npr.org
- CBS Evening News Report www.elderdecisions.com
- Wall Street Journal Article http://online.wsj.com
Source: Edward H. Ladon, PhD & Rose Mary Zapor, Esq., Zapor Elder Law, LLC. Reprinted with permission.