Elder Mediation: An Alternative to Guardianship

 

By Michelle W. Koufman, JD, Elder Law Attorney; Certified Elder Mediator

Seniors and their families face many different long term care decisions and transitions. These decisions/transitions often cause disagreement, discord and tension among different family members – in many cases – even leading to messy guardianship cases which are very difficult for everyone involved. However, the process of elder mediation can be a viable option – which tends to be less expensive and less emotionally traumatic for all of the parties involved. This blog post will define elder mediation; explore the process and when it might be appropriate for a senior and their family.

What is elder mediation?

Elder mediation is a relatively new practice area, which is gaining increased attention as a new and promising approach for resolving disputes between older adults and family members or other third parties. In this process of elder mediation – a trained facilitator uses a “mediation process model” in order to try to resolve disputes around elder issue. It is a voluntary process – where a neutral facilitator works with the disputing parties to try to help them to come to their own decisions about how to best resolve the issues at hand. Again, the mediator is “neutral” – so, they do not take any sides, make judgments or give advice. Meetings are confidential and are held in a safe setting, with extra attention made to accommodate the older person’s voice. Although there is no requirement or guarantee that an agreement will be reached, the goal of the parties involved should be to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution.

What is the process of elder mediation?

Elder mediation provides a forum for family decision making. Under this model – the trained mediator facilitates a purposeful and directed conversation – in which all family members involved are encouraged to express their feelings, interests, concerns, etc. The meetings also are informal and can be held at different locations that best meet all of the family members needs – including assisted living facilities, private homes, apartments, nursing homes, or hospitals.

What types of issues can be addressed by elder mediation?

Some typical areas that can be addressed by elder mediation are: healthcare/medical care decisions, caregiving, living arrangements, housing issues, caregiving, financial issues, driving issues, legal issues, and end-of- life planning and decision making. Elder mediators should inform all participants that mediators are not neutral in issues of abuse, neglect or safety and have a duty to report abuse.

 What type of qualifications does an elder mediator have?

While there are no hard and fast qualifications that all elder mediators must have across the board, it is advisable to find an elder mediator who has at least completed specialized elder mediation training. Although most mediators have taken at least 40 hours of basic mediation training, having a specially trained elder mediator who is not only familiar with the aging process and the family dynamics involved with these complex cases, but is also familiar with the local aging resources and programs, is invaluable.

 

Michelle W. Koufman, an experienced tax and estate planning attorney, practices in the following areas: long term care planning, estate planning, Medicaid planning, VA Aid & Attendance benefits, guardianship, probate administration and elder/family mediation. She is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and the GA Chapter of NAELA, as well as the National Aging in Place Council, Greater Atlanta Chapter. For additional information, please visit her website at http://www.GeorgiaElderCareLaw.com.

 

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