“Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict”
RESOLVING CONFLICT; PRESERVING AUTONOMY
There are times when conflict will necessarily arise between an adult child and an elder parent. Events such as the death of a spouse, the elder’s remarriage or the elder’s physical, mental or financial decline may cause that conflict to reach crisis level. Conflict will also arise between the elder parent and the adult child after a Guardian is appointed by the court, or after an adult child takes action pursuant to an elderly parent’s durable power of attorney due to the elder’s incapacity.
The conflict will give rise to tension over the elder’s safety and the competing issue of the elder parent’s autonomy. Disputes involving an elder parent’s need for care may cause the adult children to believe that the only solution is through the courts. Before the crisis reaches that point, the adult children and the elder parent may want to try to resolve the conflict through elder mediation.
WHAT IS ELDER MEDIATION?
Elder mediation is a process of resolving a dispute that involves and elder and his or her family or others who are important to the elder.
Disputes between the elder and his or her family often possess traits that will make elder mediation a particularly attractive option for the elder and his or her family. The elder and his or her family members recognize that litigation over these issues will lead to the destruction of close family relationships. An alternative to litigation that may help resolve the conflict is through elder mediation.
Resolving family disputes through elder mediation involves working through complex issues and requires creative solutions that do not occur in “win-lose” hearings in a court of law. Elder disputes involve issues, emotions, and conflicts that often have occurred in family relationships for many years. Unspoken and unacknowledged beliefs and feelings often come out during the elder mediation. Elder mediation offers a creative way to resolve the issues by providing a forum to address these complex issues.
Elder mediation is less expensive and less time-consuming than litigation. In addition, because disputes regarding the elderly often involve very private personal, family, medical, or financial issues, elder mediation offers a private dispute resolution alternative to the public disclosure resulting from courtroom litigation.
Meaningful elder mediation recognizes that the elder is the most important participant: his or her voice must be heard, and respected, if the conflict is to be resolved.
Elder mediation is also developing as a preferred method of addressing conflicts relating to individuals with disabilities, particularly as those individuals are increasingly able to play more independent roles in the community.
THE ELDER MEDIATION PROCESS
Mediation is a voluntary process in which a neutral third party helps guide the parties in conflict toward an understanding of their dispute; control of family issues and emotions; compromise and resolution of that conflict. Elder mediation often involves the inclusion of non-legal professionals such as a financial consultant, family counselor, or geriatric care manager.
In elder mediation, the mediator (traditionally an attorney) serves as the “neutral” party, and a geriatric care manager serves as advocate for the best interests of the elder.
ISSUES THAT MAY BENEFIT FROM ELDER MEDIATION
Elder conflicts typically involve disputes among adult siblings about issues surrounding an aging parent’s changing care needs and medical treatment; the independence issues that accompany the aging process, including housing and living arrangements; and issues regarding financial management. Also, the role a new spouse is to serve in relation to the role of the adult children can be determined through elder mediation.
Gregory G. Gay, Esq.
Gregory G. Gay, Esq. is an Elder Law Mediator
Gregory G. Gay, Esq. is Certified by the Florida Supreme Court as a Civil Court Mediator. Mr. Gay is Board Certified by the Florida Bar in Elder Law and in Wills, Trusts Estate Planning and Probate. Mr. Gay is also certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation and is designated as a Certified Advanced Practitioner by this Foundation. To learn more about elder mediation please call Mr. Gay at 1-800-226-0512.