Solve Family Disputes with Elder Mediation

Mediation is the process of bringing two or more parties together who are seeking to resolve a conflict. The mediator’s role is to facilitate communication between the parties and help them discover a solution . The mediator’s job is not to solve the problem or impose a solution. . The process is completely voluntary and any of the parties can withdraw at any time.

Mediation can be very helpful in dealing with issues that adult children and their elderly parents face every day. Is it time for the parents to sell their home and move into an assisted living facility? Which child should provide care if a parent wants to stay in their home? How much care does a parent need? Is there disagreement among siblings as to what to do? 

A good mediator will not place blame or responsibility on any one party in the mediation. Through a process of asking questions and soliciting discussion the mediator will help the parties come up with a solution that works for them. The mediation will not work unless all parties agree that the solution is appropriate.

In the past most mediation was done only by attorneys. A new field is developing now which allows professionals from other fields such as Geriatric Care Managers, Financial Planners and Clinical Social Workers to become mediators. Each state has specific requirements for individuals to be classified as mediators. Check with your local senior center, council on aging or the internet to find mediators in your area.

Elder Abuse

Many elderly people rely entirely on family or other trusted individuals to help them. Whether it is for physical needs or emotional needs, as people grow older they tend to need more and more help from others. This dependence on caregivers or family members makes an older person more vulnerable for abuse.

For example, an older person relying on her children to provide meals and transportation and help her with financial decisions finds it difficult to complain when one of her children takes advantage of her. If, for instance, the child takes her money, hits her or neglects her care, the parent may be threatened with loss of support from the child if the parent complains. The child may also use threats of violence to keep the parent in line.

It is estimated that 5% to 10% of elderly Americans are suffering abuse. Much attention has been focused on abuse in nursing homes but most of the elder abuse in this country is at the hands of family members or other caregivers in the home.

Signs of Abuse:

  • Unexplained bruises, welts, fractures, abrasions or lacerations
  • Multiple bruises in various stages of healing
  • Multiple/repeat injuries
  • Low self-esteem or loss of self determination
  • Withdrawn, passive
  • Fearful
  • Depressed, hopeless
  • Soiled linen or clothing
  • Social Isolation

All states have agencies that receive complaints of abuse. In some states failure to report abuse of the elderly is a crime. To contact an abuse complaint department, call your local area agency on aging. To find an area agency on aging in your area go to

Moving a Mom with Alzheimer’s

 After my mom returned from her stay in the hospital with a virus last March she began to deteriorate. She had contracted a urinary tract infection in the hospital and it dramaticallyaffected her memory.

We began round the clock aides and continued that for almost a month. The changing of aides every 12 hours confused her even more. She forgot when they were coming and what their names were. And it was costing us over $12,000 per month. So we made a critical decision. We decided to move her to an Assisted Living Facility close to our home on Cape Cod that specialized in working with memory impaired residents. We were very concerned that she would resist the move.

My wife picked her up and told her she would be staying at the facility until she got her strength back. A week before the move we met with the Executive Director, discussed the transition and selected her room. The Director told us that she might have some difficulties in the first few weeks but that resistence would be shortlived.

Sure enough, when she arrived she began telling the staff  that she wanted to go home. The first week was very painful. We wondered if we had made a terrrible mistake. But with the persistence of the staff and our reassurance she adapted to the new setting after a few weeks. Now she is very happy with her new friends, and is only twenty minutes from our home (instead of 3 hours).

Making decisions for your parents can sometimes seem awkward and difficult but many times it has to be done. It is very uncomfortable to experience a reversal of roles and become the parent of your parent. But in our case my Mom would have continued to deteriorate  in her previous setting. But now, several months later, we are certain that it was the right decision.  We know she is in good hands and is in the right home for herself and her family.