Eldercare Mediation

Eldercare Mediation

Mediation for an Aging Family Member

The transition to caring for an aging family member who was once independent can be challenging.  Problems can arise including the need for medical support, a loss of mobility, loneliness, and more. Even when everyone wants the best for the aging family member, it can be difficult to agree on what is “best.” And adding family dynamics into the mix creates untold complexity.  When these difficult situations arise, mediation works wonders in improving outcomes for an aging relative. It enhances communication and manages complex interpersonal dynamics. The result is that the family is empowered to make their own decisions collectively while maintaining the dignity of the aging family member by including them in the process. 

By Ehsan Ali and Alnoor Maherali

For many of us, our parents and older relatives did such a great job taking care of us, it can be hard to fathom them needing someone to take care of them. But as people age, they may no longer be as physically or mentally fit as they once were or have access to the same resources or social networks. The result is often difficult and awkward conversations, either with the elder family member or between siblings and cousins, over who will make decisions, who will provide care, and even who will or won’t have access to the individual.  

In many cases, this leads to disputes or disagreements for the family members. These disputes follow a familiar pattern - everyone wants what is best for their aging relative, but they cannot agree on what that means. And though everyone may have the same interest in ensuring the best care and comfort, there can also be competing interests, like finances, philosophical differences or even egos, which can escalate disagreements all the way to the courthouse. 

Part of the challenge is that over time, family dynamics can become more complicated and entrenched. Disputes that have festered for years can resurface and erupt. Economic and geographic realities can also manifest themselves, especially where one or more people have provided most of the financial support or been the most present.  When that happens, they may be annoyed that other family members are now imposing their will despite not being as involved in the past.

Unfortunately, the aging family member ends up suffering the most, even though the situation was created out of a desire to ensure the ‘best’ care for them. But when a higher level of care is required and important and life-altering decisions need to be made, families get involved. And the families are making decisions on deeply personal issues like reduced mobility, personal safety, declining health, loneliness, finances, and loss of independence to name a few. Future matters like wills and estate planning or the sale of assets may also need to be resolved. Too often these issues are disagreed upon, avoided, and even ignored, resulting in financial loss, reduced options, and psychological trauma for the family. If handled improperly, these discussions can escalate and divide a family for years to come. 

This is where mediation helps. Mediation provides a forum for family decision-making that allows them to come up with livable and mutually-agreed-upon solutions while also improving communication. And it is private, confidential and completely voluntary. Professional trained mediators, like at Venn Mediation, facilitate these sometimes difficult conversations to get them "unstuck" so they can move forward. And they do this without providing advice or taking sides. Instead, mediation enables the family to make their own decisions while hopefully avoiding court. And most importantly, the aging family member is a part of the discussion and has a say in their own outcomes.  Mediators also keep an eye out for coercion, abuse or neglect.

If you or anyone you know has an aging family member facing some difficult decisions and you require assistance with family decision making, contact Venn Mediation. We are based in New York but are experts in online mediation and can work with people anywhere. Disputes can be difficult, but dispute resolution doesn’t have to be. We make tough conversation easier and we would love to help.

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