Grey Matters Blog
What is Elder Mediation
by Carmen Scott
Over the past two decades there have been many conversations throughout Canada and abroad on the value of elder mediation and the importance of recognizing it as a specialty under the mediation continuum. What is "elder mediation"? What does that term really mean and what is its legitimate claim on impacting a reduction in the incidence of elder abuse and neglect?
In its most basic description many people understand elder mediation to be a process in which a professionally trained elder mediator utilizes a "mediation process model" to address disputes involving an older adult addressing age related issues. In many cases, an older adult who is vulnerable may be at the heart of the mediation but in other cases the mediation might be called to reduce or prevent vulnerability of the older person. The problem with this limited definition of elder mediation is that it fails to address the issue of prevention. If mediators do not understand the necessity and value of the preventative aspect of mediation then due harm, unintentional though it may be, can be caused. Elder mediation will continue to be underutilized if lawyers, stakeholders and the general public do not come to understand this preventative part of mediation.
Following is a sampling of the typical issues of aging that can be addressed in mediation. The potential for abuse or neglect is present within each of them.
-Health and medical care (at home, in the community, in the hospital, continuing care and long term care communities)
-Progressive dementias and other memory impairments
-Intergenerational relationship issues
-New marriages and step-relative issues
-Family business issues
-Abuse, safety issues, self-neglect
-Legal issues (estate, inheritance, living will, power of attorney etc.)
-End-of-life planning and decision-making
Elder mediation benefits elders, their families, attorneys, and others in a number of unique ways. Elder mediation provides an opportunity to explore, in a confidential and safe environment, creative win-win solutions that address a broad range of decisions and conflicts that affect an elder's life. Agreement is not reached unless it meets the needs of all participants—elders (and/or their representatives), family members, caregivers, and other appropriate support persons. Since the elder is often able to participate in mediation, either directly or with the assistance of an attorney or other representative, the elder's dignity is maintained by having a voice in the life choices that are made.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the first step for mediation?
The first step is to contact an experienced elder mediator so I can learn more about your current situation and how I may assist. Both parties need to agree to mediation so I will confirm with the other party that they are also interested in participating. Once I have confirmation from all parties that they wish to pursue mediation I will then book a pre-mediation meeting with each of you.
2. What is pre-mediation?
In pre-mediation I meet with each party separately to hear their perspective, learn about what they are hoping for and assisting them to identify the issues they wish to resolve in mediation. It also gives us a chance to identify any documentation or other preparation that will be required in order to address the identified issues in mediation. Pre-mediation is confidential.
3. What is the mediator's role?
My role is to be a neutral third party who facilitates a discussion between the parties to address the identified issues. I do not make decisions for you. During mediation my job is help keep things on track, to insure a respectful dialogue and to help each party to feel they are able to openly and honestly discuss the issues at hand and ideally come to an agreement.
4. What is my responsibility in mediation?
I expect that everyone who comes to mediation comes with a sincere intention to resolve the identified issues. I ask that people come prepared to be honest and open with each other. Holding back information or details can make it difficult to reach an agreement or can impact the sustainability of an agreement. I ask that parties remain respectful of each other throughout the process. Please also come prepared with any documentation or other information that we have identified as necessary to assist in resolving issues.
5. Is mediation confidential.
Yes, mediation is a confidential process. What is said in mediation cannot be used in court. As your mediator I cannot be called as a witness. The only time I would need to share information is if I am required to do so by law, for example, if there was a child protection concern that came to light.
6. Is the agreement we reach legally binding?
As your mediator I prepare your agreement in a document called a Memorandum of Understanding. It is not legally binding. I encourage parties to seek the advice of an independent legal counsel before signing. The document can become legally binding if you incorporate it into a court order or other legal document as advised by legal counsel.
For more information please contact Lori Frank at 250-516- 4234