Consider Elder-Care Mediation

Médiation

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Consider elder-care mediation:

In this fast-growing field, a trained, neutral conflict-resolution professional—sometimes an attorney or therapist—meets with adult siblings and, if they’re alive and able, their parents, to sort out contentious or unresolved issues relating to Mom and Dad. The mediator’s job is to defuse the situation and keep the group focused on their common goal: to come up with the best possible outcome for a parent they all love and to preserve family relationships. Everyone gets to talk (or vent or cry) and problem-solve to reach an agreement. In some situations, an elder law attorney, financial planner, caregiver or geriatric care manager also attends to lend his or her expertise.

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The dissension may revolve around any number of issues:

  • Money—who controls it, distrust of the adult child handling the checkbook, a sibling who has received more than his “fair share” of financial support or bears unequal caregiving costs.
  • Medical and end-of-life choices.
  • Family possessions, including inheritance, guardianship, sale of the parent’s primary or vacation home.
  • Independence and safety (for example, taking away the car keys).
  • Living arrangements or caregiving—one sibling shouldering the burden or being controlling, another not pulling her weight, or someone feeling cut out of the loop.

Other issues include: multiple decision-makers and personalities, economic and geographic disparities among siblings, different expectations, complicated role reversals, ingrained ways of behaving, old “baggage” and personal commitments. As these issue play out, siblings watch a cherished parent decline or deal with loss—and a new industry is born.

Rather than going to court, where a judge calls the shots, mediation is nonbinding and confidential, decisions are made by consensus, and attendance is voluntary. It’s also cheaper than litigation: $150 to $500 per hour for several hours for a private mediator’s time, or a nominal fee if you work through community mediation centers. Family members often share the costs. Another option—doing nothing and letting problems fester—can carry the much heavier price tag of ruptured relationships, impacting interaction with beloved cousins, nieces, uncles and even the next generation.

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