Dear Savvy Senior,
Are there any services that you recommend that can help families resolve elder parent caregiving conflicts? My 86-year-old father was recently diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, and to make matters worse, my sister and brother and I have been perpetually arguing about how to handle his future caregiving and financial needs.
It’s not unusual when adult children disagree with each other regarding the care of an elder parent. If you and your siblings are willing, a good possible solution is to hire an “eldercare mediator” who can help you work through your disagreements peacefully. Here’s how it works.
While mediators have been used for years to help divorcing couples sort out legal and financial disagreements and avoid court battles, eldercare mediation is a relatively new and specialized service designed to help families resolve disputes that are related to aging parents or other elderly relatives.
Family disagreements over an ill or elderly parent’s caregiving needs, medical care, living arrangements, driving issues, legal and financial decisions are just some of the many issues that an elder care mediator can help with. But don’t confuse this with family or group therapy. Mediation is only about decision-making, not feelings and emotions.
The job of an elder mediator is to step in as a neutral third party to help ease family tensions, listen to everyone’s concerns, hash out disagreements and misunderstandings, and help your family make decisions that are acceptable to everyone.
Good mediators can also assist your family in identifying experts such as estate-planners, geriatric care managers, or health care or financial professionals who can supply important information for family decision making.
Your family also needs to know that the mediation process is completely confidential and can take anywhere from a few hours to several meetings depending on the complexity of your issues. And if some family members live far away, a conference or video call can be used to bring everyone together.
If you’re interested in hiring a private eldercare mediator, you can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to more than $500 per hour depending on where you live and who you choose. Or, if available in your area, you may be able to get help through a community-based nonprofit program that offers free or low-cost services by volunteer mediators.
Finding a Mediator
To locate an elder mediator in your area, start by asking for referrals from health professionals or hospital social workers or search online at The Academy of Professional Family Mediators website (apfmnet.org) or Mediate.com. Both sites have searchable directories.
Or, to search for free/low-cost community-based mediation programs in your state, see the National Association for Community Mediation website (nafcm.org). Unfortunately, not all states offer them.
There is currently no universally accepted credential or professional standard for eldercare mediators, so make sure the person you choose has extensive experience with elder issues that are similar to what your family is dealing with. Also, be sure you ask for references and check them. Most elder mediators are attorneys, social workers, counselors or other professionals who are trained in mediation and conflict resolution.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.