Elder Mediation

Have you found yourself in a family situation where communication has become difficult, and critical decisions are being put on hold? When this happens, it may be necessary for families to bring in a neutral third party to help them get “unstuck” in their decision-making. Elder Mediation has proven to be a wise solution when it comes to helping families address major life transitions of the elderly.

Not only does it provide a forum for family centered decision-making, it also creates the opportunity for all parties to benefit from the outcome; rather than having a “winner” and a “loser.” Mediators act as neutral facilitators, to assist families in resolving conflicts, and clarifying issues. They develop mutually acceptable agreements to best meet the family’s needs and interests.

Family issues that are appropriate for Elder Mediation include: residence decisions, distribution of care giving responsibilities, safety and health concerns, wills and estates, and major life transitions, that can result in painful and unrelenting conflict.

Like all mediation practices, Elder Mediation is private, confidential and completely voluntary. If needed, mediation sessions can take place in senior living facilities. Elder Mediation is a cooperative, rather than an adversarial process. This oftentimes allows families to repair their strained relationships. Family members develop their own problem solving tactics. This results in high satisfaction, and resolutions that tend to be workable and long lasting.

The goal of Elder Mediation is to allow families to create workable, and mutually acceptable solutions to their difficult and emotional disputes. This helps to develop communication strategies that enable families to successfully work together, to make important decisions in the future. By participating in the mediation process, family members are able to control the outcome of their meeting. All family members,including elders,have an opportunity to be heard.

Mediators are skilled, conflict resolution experts. They are trained to listen actively, remain neutral, identify and separate issues, understand and redress power imbalances, and identify when expert, outside information is needed. Therefore, Elder Mediation sessions often involve more than just the family members. Qualified professionals such as lawyers, geriatric care managers, healthcare providers, and financial planners are sometimes necessary to incorporate into discussions.

Ideally, early intervention is the best approach. This can help to resolve any family conflicts involving elder care and estate issues, before the family is entrenched in crisis and conflict.When issues are avoided, disagreed upon, and ignored, they can result in fewer choices, financial loss, and emotional turmoil for the family. Working through these challenges in the mediation process can be an opportunity to preserve financial, and familial harmony.

To find Elder Mediation service providers in your area, visit the Resolution Washington website http://www.resolutionwa.org/ and the Washington Mediation Association website http://www.washingtonmediation.org/

Andrea Vallee, Director Mediation & Facilitation Services, the Dispute Resolution Center of Skagit County 1714 South Second Street Mount Vernon,WA 98273 www.skagitcounty.net/mediationservices (360) 336-9494 andreav@co.skagit.wa.us