Elder mediation can reduce family strife

When a parent gets older and begins to need additional care, it can create a lot of stress within a family. Sometimes, it can create conflicts and misunderstandings between family members as well.

For example, siblings might argue over what’s best for an aging parent. Or if one family member is doing the bulk of the care, it can lead to resentment within the family, especially if the person providing the care is also receiving compensation for the work.

One way to deal with these issues is with an elder mediator. A mediator doesn’t make any decisions and doesn’t take sides. Instead, the mediator listens to the issues, keeps the family focused on shared goals, encourages consideration of all the options, and helps clear up misunderstandings and address hurt feelings. Through this process, a family can often come up with new answers to problems or new ways of resolving conflicts.

The idea is not to have a winner or loser, but to have a solution that everyone is happy with. Some typical scenarios addressed by elder mediators include:

  • Should an older parent stay at home with help, move in with one of the children, or move to assisted living?
  • If one sibling does all the work of caring for a parent, or if the parent moves in with the sibling, how should the sibling be compensated? What’s fair?
  • A parent wants to leave more assets to one child than another in his or her will – perhaps because one child has a larger family, or has been less financially successful. This can cause the child with the lesser inheritance to feel upset.
  • Parents want their vacation home to stay in the family, but some children use it more than others and disagree about what should be done with it.
  • When one parent dies, the other parent begins dating someone new. The children may feel resentment, and worry that they will lose their inheritance.

In family situations where there’s conflict, parents often have a tendency to tell each child what the child wants to hear, in order to keep peace and reduce tensions. But doing so generally only increases the level of discord and hurt feelings in the long run. Addressing the issues in a non-threatening way with the help of an experienced mediator can clear the air and lead to long-term family harmony.