Mediation for Elders

“We are all getting older!  More and more of us are living longer.  And as we live longer, we and our families are faced with issues and problems to be discussed and resolved.  Elder mediation enables individuals and their families to have important conversations and to make decisions that reflect the needs of all, with an emphasis on the quality of life of the older person.” Seosamh O Maolalaí, MII Elder Mediation Sector Rep

Elder Mediation is a growing area.  Issues surrounding older members of our families are difficult to articulate and awquard to broach.  However if these issues are allowed to fester they can cause resentments, misunderstandings and leave family units ill-prepared for the needs of their aging members.  Elder mediation as in the example below does not require a full blown dispute to have started – this form of Mediation is an assistive intervention in order to avoid future problems and differences.

Consider how many problems were avoided by this family’s decision to engage an Elder Mediator:

“Dad was getting older. He had done quite well initially after mam died five years ago. But more recently he seemed to have failed quite a bit. We wondered was he even eating properly or enough? There are five children in the family. Mary, the eldest, lives closest to Dad and has started to spend a lot of time cooking and cleaning for Dad. The other children are Tom, who is married down the country and Breda, David and Sean who are all married with families and live in the UK.

Mary called all of us and basically told us that we needed to wake up and understand what was happening.  There were a few difficult conversations but I think everyone realized that Mary was right.  Luckily enough, Sean had a lot of awareness of mediation through his job in the UK and he suggested we look for a good elder mediator in Dublin.  The mediator talked to Dad and all of us individually, either in person or by phone.  He then set up a mediation meeting – again, some participated in person others by skype. Dad was right in the middle of it – he is still well able to speak for himself. It took a few meetings and a fair bit of toing and froing, but we ended up with an agreement and everyone is a lot happier now.

Dad is still at home but with home help in place to support his needs.  All of us “kids” have committed in different ways to being more in touch with Dad and “there for him”.  And we have agreed a plan about how Dad will be cared for into the future. If the time comes to look at residential care, he has made his views clear about him being consulted and having the final say on where he is going to go.  Each of the children has also made their own financial or other commitment with regards to Dad’s care needs now and in the future.  So it has all worked out quite well and actually brought us closer together.”

In this area Mediation operates to;

  • Assist people in dealing with difficult areas of family development.
  • Provides an arena for families to face the practical realities of aging.
  • Empowers the elder members by giving them an equal voice and arena for their desires to be recorded.
  • Create the conditions for sensible decision making regarding family futures.
  • Helps avoid care problems and family squabbles arising out of lack of communication and preparation.
  1. What is elder mediation?

Elder mediation is mediation involving an older person.  Elder mediation facilitates the older person and their families and other relevant parties to have important conversations and make decision that reflect the needs of all, but with an emphasis on the quality of life of the older person.

  1. Who is typically involved?

Typically the older person and their family members (spouse, children) are involved.  Other parties such as caregivers or care staff may also be involved. 

  1. How does it work?

Elder mediation provides a flexible framework that can be adapted to suit the unique requirements of each situation.  The process can involve one-to-one meetings and discussions, full group mediation meetings and work (research, drafting of proposals etc) being carried out between meetings.

  1. What type of situations are suitable for elder mediation?

Any issue involving an older person may be suitable for elder mediation including: Housing and living arrangements; continuing care and long-term care; retirement; healthcare planning; safety; financial management; estate planning and probate; new marriages, blended families and step-families; guardianship and power of attorney; relationship concerns; end of life decisions; social and community activities

  1. Who makes the decisions in elder mediation?

The participants themselves make the decisions in elder mediation.  Any decision is made by and belongs to the participants.  The mediator facilitates the process, enabling the participants to better hear and understand each other’s’ points of view and, from that better all-round understanding, to come to an agreement.

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