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Michigan Elder Law Today

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Role of Mediators in Elder Care

Can a mediator assist in resolving elder care issues?

Issues related to caring for elder parents is becoming increasingly important as the population ages. In fact, according to U.S. Census figures, in 2013 there were about 45 million adults 65 or older; and by 2030, about I in 5 Americans (72 million people) will be members of that age group.

In light of this trend, trained mediators are playing a greater role is helping families resolve disputes over the care and finances of aging parents. These disputes often arise from familial misunderstandings surrounding issues unrelated to questions of caring for elderly parents.

The mediators have a variety of professional backgrounds in business, education, law, social work and psychology. While lawyers and mediators have long been involved in elder care, experts are presently calling for more specialized training in this area.

 

Caring for an Aging Parent

Caring for an aging parent is an emotional challenge and decision-making can be difficult, especially when the parent is unable to make decisions. Mediation offers all parties, including the aging parent, the chance to have an open dialogue in order to find common ground.

Typical questions that arise in elder care include: Who should be appointed guardian or have power of attorney? Should the elderly parent remain in the family home or move to an assistive residence? When should an aging parent stop driving?. Moreover, issues about end of life decisions and distribution of assets become a challenge.

How a Mediator Can Help

These decisions often cause conflicts between children and parents, siblings and other family members. Mediators act as impartial third parties, encouraging family members to reach decisions with less adversity. At the same time, mediators do not play a role similar to that of an attorney, and have no decision-making role like a judge or an arbitrator.

Successful mediation requires the voluntary participation of all relevant family members in conjunction with geriatric-care professionals, financial planners and other professionals. While mediation can be a faster and less adversarial way to resolve elder-care issues, disputes may still arise that require legal representation.


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