For years, couples have hired divorce mediators to avoid court battles. Now growing numbers of mediators are specializing in disputes that relate to older adults; disputes over money management or care giving responsibilities are common.
“Our clients tend to be well-educated, successful people who are used to hiring professionals for whatever services they need,” says Arline Kardasis, co-founder of Elder Decisions, a mediation and training firm in Norwood, MA. Elder mediators can help clients resolve conflicts over a variety of issues, from how to share a cherished legacy property or vacation home, to who should drive Mom to her monthly doctor’s appointments.
There are many advantages to mediation, including of course, the potential to avoid family conflicts and relationship break-downs. But additionally, an objective third-party opinion, especially from a professional experienced in such matters, can help families find creative – and acceptable – solutions they might never have discovered on their own. The process also can be much less expensive than litigation.
The WSJ relates two important bits of advice, though. First, the elderly person in question should be party to the discussions, especially regarding issues of where they will live or how they will receive care. Second, keep in mind that mediation of this nature is not regulated and there are no basic standards or metrics to use in finding a mediator. If mediation is right for your family, then your family will have to do the leg-work to find someone who knows the industry, knows the problems, and understands your family. You will want to look for experience, follow up on references, and perhaps seek advice or referrals from a qualified elder law attorney.
The Journal suggests a few online resources to help you get started include The National Association for Community Mediation, Eldercare Mediators.com, Mediate.com and acrnet.org.
Re: The Wall Street Journal Online (Feb 5, 2011) “A Referee For Family Disputes”