What is elder mediation?

We understand that families often struggle with complex and difficult challenges as parents age. These challenges can provoke strong feelings and conflicting views among family members. While family unity is often a prized goal, it sometimes can be difficult to achieve without outside assistance. Elder mediation can help.

What is Elder Mediation?
Elder mediation (sometimes called adult family mediation) is a structured process that involves working with a trained facilitator to make important decisions connected with the life of an aging family member. Topics may include caretaking or residential arrangements, driving, financial planning, inheritance, medical treatment, power of attorney, or guardianship.

Who participates in Elder Mediation?
Participants may include aging family members, adult children, spouses, and grandchildren. Non-family members-such as geriatric care managers, caregivers, attorneys, financial advisers, and family friends-may also participate if the family members agree to their presence. These non-family participants can serve as advisers and, where appropriate, as a proxy for an aging family member who is physically or mentally unable to participate in the mediation.

What if a key family member cannot attend?
If the aging family member cannot attend mediation due to health issues, we will explore with you how to have their interests heard. This might be accomplished by having the mediator visit with the aging family member, or by having a geriatric care manager, attorney, or family friend attend the mediation session to speak on behalf of the aging family member. Conference calls and video conferencing can also help key family members participate if scheduling or distance are problematic.

If key family members refuse to participate, it may be helpful for us to talk with them individually to hear their concerns and answer their questions. We also offer individual coaching on how to communicate and resolve conflicts with family members on your own, outside of the mediation process.

What does Elder Mediation look like?
Step 1: We receive an inquiry from one or several family members. We then schedule short phone conversations with other family members to answer their questions, describe the mediation process, and assess willingness to participate. There is no charge for these short initial phone calls.
Step 2: If your family decides to go forward with mediation, we schedule a more extended individual discussion with each family member designed to help you prepare for the joint mediation session, to develop an agenda for the joint session, and to help us better understand the context.
Step 3: The family meets in a joint session with the mediator. We will encourage all participants to express their goals, to listen fully to each other, and to think creatively as you make decisions about the future.

Cost and time?
The cost of mediation is calculated on an hourly basis and can be allocated among the family members in a variety of ways. Sometimes the aging family member offers to pay the fee out of a desire to promote the family’s future relationship. Sometimes the fee is shared by all the family members, which may include adjustments that take into account each person’s ability to pay.

Why should you consider Elder Mediation?
An adversarial legal process typically requires a tremendous amount of money and time. Unlike court proceedings, mediation is confidential and protects your family’s privacy. Mediation encourages creative exploration of a wide range of options and helps family members find mutually beneficial solutions.