Family life inevitably changes. Transitions take place. Important issues arise relating to the health, medical care, and independence of an elder. Other financial, estate, and legal matters may demand attention. Family dynamics, evolving over the years, often are complicated. Relationships can be strained due to differences of opinion, individual perceptions of fairness, and caregiver burnout. The elder and/or loved ones may be experiencing significant stress. There is a need to re-connect family ties, share responsibility, and make well informed decisions. In this scenario, mediation offers an opportunity.
Mediation is a private process based on self-determination – consent of the participants. Mediated decisions are made only by the family. Participation is voluntary, family members may opt in or opt out at any time for any reason or no reason. Mediation communications are confidential as provided by law. The mediator, selected by the family, is neutral and impartial, he/she cannot take sides, provide legal advice or make decisions.
Topics for discussion at mediation are selected by the family. No topic is considered too complex for discussion. Each family member is provided the opportunity to fully express his/her views without interruption and to make recommendations.
An elder may participate with dignity and autonomy to the extent possible. The mediator has a responsibility to make sure the elder’s interests are articulated, either directly or by an appropriate advocate. If desired by the family, professionals such as geriatric care managers, clergy, financial planners, support persons, caregivers, pets, etc. may participate. Each family member has a right to legal counsel.
Mediation conferences take place at convenient locations suitable to the needs and circumstances of the family. The conferences are conducted informally and privately, at group or individual meetings, in person and/or by electronic means.
The mediator’s role is to encourage family communication, mutual listening, to reduce obstacles, to clarify issues, and promote consideration of all possible remedies. The mediator is trained to de-escalate tension arising from family experiences, differences in philosophy, life circumstances, availability, and financial resources.
When motivated by a desire to preserve harmony, a family may prefer to first try a collaborative or consensus building approach to mediation whereby a solution is sought based on beliefs held in common. Voluntary ground rules may be established by the family, insofar as it is possible, to avoid decision making by a vote. Ideally, the participants will persevere in seeking an informed agreement, a shared solution, which every family member, or almost every member, can live with.
In both emotional and monetary terms, a mediated agreement made outside the courtroom, is less draining, and significantly less costly than litigation. When unresolved issues are litigated, no one can guarantee the outcome. Judges and juries make decisions based on their interpretation of the law.
A mediated agreement, crafted by the family, tailored to meet special circumstances, offers a greater degree of certainty, and more timely decisions. It is more likely to be durable and may well avoid family rifts that otherwise would never be repaired.
Initial consultations with family are free. CONTACT PAT