Care-Full Conversations: Elder Mediation And Family Decision-Making

When older adults face major transitions in which their adult children may be involved, it can be a time of tension and conflict. Unresolved family issues may make communication difficult and interfere with critical decisions concerning the health and safety of an aging family member. Diminished capacity of the older family member(s) may also pose obstacles. Elder Mediation is an option to assist families in making vital decisions and keeping the channels of communication open between parents and children and between the siblings.

In mediation people discuss issues privately in a cooperative manner. The process is voluntary, confidential and empowers participants to come to their own solutions. The role of the mediator who is a highly trained conflict resolution specialist is to facilitate the discussion so that every party is heard. In addition to assisting families to create their own solutions to disagreements, a skilled mediator can help family members to develop a communication plan for the future. In talking matters out, litigation can be averted and relationships may be preserved or, possibly, improved.

Who initiates mediation depends on the situation. An aging parent may want to gather the family together to ensure wishes regarding estate matters and end-of-life decisions are fully understood. An adult child may initiate the process to resolve differences between siblings or between parents or grandparents. More often, one, adult child feels that decisions must be made regarding the health and safety of a loved one: medical care, living arrangements, health-care proxy, power-of-attorney, care giving arrangements and expenses and, possibly, questions of competency and guardianship.

Legal and financial matters may have to be considered which will necessitate, perhaps, costly professional advice. If family members are unable or unwilling to sit down together because of past history, their loved one is at risk for having critical decisions made by the court, not the party or parties who know the elderly family member best. By agreeing to mediation to sort out obstructions to communication, family members may save time and money when consulting with attorneys, financial advisors and other professionals who might be consulted in order to arrive at the best decision regarding their loved one.


Susan Curcio M.A.

Susan Curcio, M.A. is a Florida Certified Family Mediator.  She brings ten years of mediation experience from New York where she trained in Community, Custody/Visitation and Parent/Child Mediation.  She was instrumental in initiating coordinating the Elder Mediation Program at the Dispute Resolution Center of Orange County, NY.  She has completed… MORE >

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