Jeffrey R. Windsor

Attorney Mediator

(650) 632-4500
jeff@windsor-plc.com

 

 

 

 

Elder Care Mediation and Facilitated Family Meetings

Elder care mediations and facilitated family meetings provide an environment for family decision-making and planning. It is a collaborative process, entered into when families are beginning to make “big” decisions as they confront the challenges of aging. It is private, confidential, and voluntary, and most effective before a crisis occurs. Some of the key areas in which families engage in mediation and family facilitated meetings include residency and caregiving decisions, inheritance issues, medical treatment decisions, and those individual, often emotion-laden topics, which distinguish every family. Mediations can take place at the offices of the mediator, a family member’s home, a prospective or current care facility, or anywhere most comfortable for the family. A mediator helps guide the process; however, the parties control the final decisions made. Elder care mediations and facilitated family meetings can also prove to be significantly less costly – emotionally and financially, for the families who participate as they begin to consider the issues that arise with age.

Residence, Caregiving, and Financial Decisions

Almost all families face the difficult decision of whether a senior family member can stay in his or her home, often needing some kind of home care, or whether he or she should move to an assisted living facility. These decisions invariably involve financial considerations (e.g., the costs of a part-time home caregiver versus residency in a facility), the availability of a nearby family member who can offer aid, and independency issues, such as a senior’s ability to drive, the onset of dementia or memory issues, and the proximity to doctors, hospitals, or places of worship that the older adult most prefers. Families must also often make decisions about selling their parents’ home, available insurance for their care, and the simple expenses of daily living. A mediator can help in bringing the appropriate family members and professionals (e.g., attorneys, financial planners, healthcare managers) together to begin discussing these issues, listen and navigate the decision- making process, and keep the participants focused on working collaboratively to create the best care plan for the elder - the earlier the better.

Medical Treatment, Conservatorships, and Power of Attorney

Siblings and loved ones sometimes have differing views on what an older adult would want in the event a crisis or medical emergency should occur, including who should handle his or her finances, who should be empowered to make critical medical decisions, and decisions regarding advance directives, living wills, or organ donation. Often family members neglect to discuss these issues with the seniors in their lives, yet presume to know their preferences. Mediation can provide a forum for the elder to tell the children what he or she would want as well as whom he or she may want making key decisions and help prevent significant, stressful disputes from arising.

Inheritance, Estates, and Potential Emotional Topics

Although people generally understand the importance of creating wills, trusts, and estate planning, too often they do not help younger family members understand their decisions. This can lead not only to hurt feelings, but even to painful, costly, lengthy litigation among siblings and caregivers, which may include accusations of neglect, coercion, or even abuse. The older adult may have thought everyone understands why certain inheritance plans were made (e.g., who should receive a summer home, jewelry, or other assets), but in truth, few do, and many may end up hurt. Families with new or long-standing relationship issues, blended families (e.g., step-parents and siblings), and those who feel their contributions have been underappreciated may also find conflicts resurface when a crisis occurs with an elder. Mediation or facilitated family meetings can provide a calm environment to help families create plans that reflect the elders’ values, quell current or potential conflicts, and preserve relationships.

Elder care mediation and facilitated family meetings are most effective when families are beginning to consider these and other inevitable issues. Families may find thinking about and openly discussing these topics a challenge at first, but with the help of a mediator in a safe, respectful setting, they are then best able to plan for a comfortable, meaningful future with their loved ones.