Mediation for Elders and their Children
There is nothing more valuable for families dealing with the challenges of aging than agreement. Agreements help to ensure that parents get the care they need, that siblings are clear on their roles and responsibilities as their parents age, and that parents’ ultimate wishes are honored.
Where things go wrong
When parents enter the last stages of their lives, their relationship with their children dramatically change. Children find themselves in caregiver roles and parents find themselves dependent on their children. The demands of caregiving may fall unequally on siblings based on geography, resources, time, abilities, and the quality of parent-child relationships. Parent end-of-life goals may be unclear or unrealistic and children struggle to strike the balance between what is ideal and what is practical. Critical care and end-of-life decisions may be made without consensus of all the parents’ children. All of this may lead to unresolved conflicts that are taken out in lengthy and expensive legal battles over the estate.
Sister: “In the last 3 years of mom’s life, you weren’t there.”
Brother: “Mom always liked you more. Besides, you never asked for help.”
Mediation is a private forum that focuses parents, their children, and other representatives on reaching agreement that focus on each parent’s quality of life and legacy.
The mediator can help parents voice their wishes to their children before their roles change. If siblings are already in caregiving roles, the mediator can help siblings discuss or negotiate their roles and responsibilities. As a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA), the mediator can bring practical questions about healthcare options, housing and personal care, transportation, end-of-life preferences, and when/how legal authority for finances and healthcare decisions are transferred. Rather than simply creating a set of life planning documents (powers of attorney, wills, trusts, etc.), the parents’ wishes and goals are clarified and discussed so that there is no miscommunication or surprises. Disagreements can be talked about and negotiated before critical events happen. In terms of financial and emotional expense, preventative measures are the most effective and least costly ways a mediator can help.
Realistically, very few families even think about mediation until they are in the middle of a crisis or disagreement. In these cases, the mediator intervenes in the conflict to help everyone communicate their needs, gives practical information needed to make good decisions, and focuses participants on workable solutions going forward.