Elder Mediation?
What Is It and How Can It Help Our Family?

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Elder Mediation:  How Can It Help Us?

By Shauna Tucker, Lawyer

Elder mediation is when you and your family members use a mediator to help you negotiate and formulate solutions to concerns arising because you, or a parent or other important family member is aging.  Since you and your family members decide what issues you want to talk about and how to resolve them, the solutions and agreements you generate are specific to your family and what is important to you.

There is no limit to the kinds of problems families bring to mediation, but typical “elder mediation” cases include:

o       Discussions about living arrangements for the “Elder”.  Sometimes there is conflict between parents who want to stay in the family home and adult children who feel it is time their parents considered a care facility.  Sometimes elders want to move, but need community and family support to make it happen and don’t know where to start.  Talking about where an elder wants to and should live often triggers conflict within families;

o       Negotiations about how to provide the necessary emotional, physical and financial support for a declining Elder.  If an aging parenting is declining physically or mentally providing care can strain human and financial resources – especially as needs change over time and it gets harder and harder for adult children to keep “juggling”.  It can be hard to acknowledge that caring for our loved ones can be a strain, but frank and respectful conversation can assist family members in managing that care while meeting their other personal obligations;

o       Decision making within the family business about how to manage the company now mom or dad are easing back at work; and,

o       Conversations about “family money.”  The re-marriage of a senior can cause considerable consternation in families where there was a previous expectation about what would happen to “famly money” and a concern that the new spouse will expect to inherit. 

If You Or Your Family Members Are Making Statements Like These, You Will Want to Consider Elder Mediation:

“My kids are squabbling like are still children. Why can’t they figure out that although I am aging, that it is me that gets to decide where I live?”

 “I don’t want to talk to my sister.  She’s just been spending my mom’s money but not visiting her at all.  I just want a lawyer to go to court, get my mom declared incompetent and to make me her guardian so I can make sure she gets a proper care-giver”.

“My oldest daughter just told me that I need to give her a power of attorney, she just told me that I wasn’t looking after my money properly.”

“I really want to start cutting back at work so I can travel, but I’m worried that the kids need me here to run the business. I think I should just sell it, but I’m not sure that youngest kid of mine is employable anywhere else!”

“You need to evict my brother from the basement suite, he is bleeding you dry and I don’t care if he helps with the yard work.”

“You need to get a new will Dad because Mom would be rolling over in her grave if she knew that your new wife, Betty is going to get any money. Plus Betty is driving the family apart because she is trying to control everything that you do.”

“I am so exhausted. I have been caring for Mom for 5 years and my marriage is on the rocks because of it. My selfish sister who does not even live in town wants to call the shots and she doesn’t even really care about how hard it is to care for Mom.”

“Our grandpa just got diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. All of us in the family want to make sure he is cared for both financially and emotionally as his health declines.”

“We were just called for the 4th time this month that Mom had managed to walk out of her care facility. This time she was found walking up the very busy Pat Bay Highway in the rain with just her slippers on and no jacket. I want to move her to a facility with better care and my brother is refusing to pay his part of it. What do we do?”

“Dad had his second mid-life crisis and married a woman he met in his retirement facility. I found out from my friend who works there that he is her 5th husband. I think she is after his money. He is going to be furious about it if I ask him about it and yet I am sure she is after his bucks. What can we do to make sure he doesn’t get sucked in?”

Why Use Elder Mediation?

These are “normal” problems – the kind of things all families fight about.  Why should anyone come to mediation to deal with them?

Although such differences of opinion about tough family issues are normal, they touch on legal issues that can result in full blown court room battles if problems are not resolved.  Elder mediation can reduce the potential of there being a divisive legal dispute or an ongoing rift between aging parents, siblings or spouses.  Addressing conflict, openly and respectfully, and in a forum where the goal is to reach agreement on how everyone can move forward, is the best way to ensure problems are dealt with.

What is Elder Mediation Like?

Elder mediation is a lot like family mediation, which most people know about.  In mediation, the parties come together, and with the assistance of a neutral facilitator (the mediator) they identify their problems; put their interests and needs on the table; and work to solution.  All mediation is collaborative and consensual.  If all of the parties in the room don’t come to agreement, no one is going to force a solution on the family.  Family members are most likely to follow an agreement they reach themselves and all agree to.

Elder mediation, however, can look a little different from other family mediation because:

o       Elder mediation is likely to involve multiple parties such as the Elder, the adult children and possibly the Elders’ grandchildren.  If a neighbor provides significant support or care, she might be at the table too!

o       Elder mediation is concerned with including the views of the Elder in the mediation even if legal capacity might be in issue.  All important family voices get heard and considered.

o       Often there will be health care professionals, social workers, and elder care facility managers present in order to provide useful information that may be needed for there to be a decision to be made.

o       The ongoing nature of relationships between the parties is usually different in Elder Law than it is in family law. The parties typically have an interest in maintaining personal relationships with each other that provides an incentive to reach mutually satisfying solutions.

How is the Law Relevant to Elder Mediation?

The law intersects with Elder Mediation in two principle ways.

First, much of what the parties discuss or the ways in which they need to implement their decisions will involve legal tools.  The preservation and distribution of family assets; the creation of Powers of Attorney; the sale of homes; and contracting with care-homes, for example, all involve law.

Second, if the parties come to Agreement, that Agreement will be a binding legal contract. 

The parties will be strongly encouraged to get independent legal advice about the contract if they are not already working with lawyers.

While your mediator must be neutral, and not offer any party legal advice, it is important to work with a mediator who understands the intersection between mediation and law to ensure all participants are seeking the necessary legal information and advice to reach decisions that work for them and their families.

Now What?

To obtain assistance with your elder mediation needs, please contact the BC Mediation Roster Society or speak with a lawyer to obtain a referral at Hemminger Law Group by Contacting Us.  

Return from Elder Mediation

Phone us now at 250-220-8686 or use our contact us form.

Your initial half-hour consultation with one of our lawyers is of no obligation.

When you provide us with your personal information you can be assured it will not be shared with a third party and will be used only by HEMMINGER LAW GROUP  for the purpose of corresponding with our clients.

At Hemminger Law Group we commit to providing you with the highest quality legal information on this website. However, nothing on this website should be construed as actual legal advice. Every case is different and it is important that you consult a lawyer before making any decisions with respect to a legal matter.

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