Elder mediation could provide a solution for the growing number of Canadian families being forced into difficult conversations about their older relatives.
Nearly 20 per cent of Canadians are over the age of 65, with almost five per cent over 80, and both proportions are trending upwards every year. Rising in tandem are the challenges and conflicts that come with an aging population.
The increasingly popular process of elder mediation, also known as intergenerational mediation, provides a forum for the loved ones of older people to get to the heart of these complex issues, and begin charting a path forward that works for everyone.
As one of just 51 intergenerational mediators accredited by the Ontario Association of Family Mediationat the time of writing, I am available to help families find solutions to challenges, disputes and conflicts involving older adults. Read on as I explore some of the most frequently asked questions about this emerging field.
Like any other form of family mediation, elder mediation is a voluntary, informal and completely confidential process in which a specially trained mediator facilitates a discussion among all parties to a dispute, with a view to reaching a settlement that they can all agree on.
An intergenerational mediator takes their lead from the participants, allowing everyone involved an opportunity to express their concerns and interests. The flexibility of the process lends itself to creativity in terms of the solutions that are proposed, and outcomes can be specifically tailored to the parties in a way that is just not possible with more adversarial modes of dispute resolution.
The cooperative nature of mediation also bodes well for the preservation of family relationships compared to what can sometimes occur when matters are taken to court.
Conflict among family members is not a prerequisite for elder mediation. In fact, the process can help relieve existing tensions – or even prevent them from developing — by giving everyone involved an outlet for concerns they might not have raised in any other forum.
Often, the loved ones of an elderly person are simply struggling with difficult decisions or interventions that need to be made on their behalf. In these cases, a facilitated conversation guided by a neutral person can help them resolve any conflict or come to an agreement about how best to move forward.
Each case is different, but the family and friends of an older person, as well as any others who are willing to lend their support, are typically the key players in an intergenerational mediation session. Often, these include the subject’s children, grandchildren, and their spouse or companion.
Depending on the individual circumstances of the case and the nature of the matters at issue, the elderly person at the heart of an intergenerational mediation or a representative may be present for the session.
Whether or not they are physically in the room, the challenge for the mediator is to strike a balance between recognizing the need for protection of a potentially vulnerable person and validating that same person’s right to live an autonomous life on their terms.
Health professionals who have had frequent contact with an older person as a patient are a common source of referrals for elder meditators, and sessions will often include input from caregivers, hospital staff, nursing home representatives and doctors, among others.
The list of possible topics an elder mediation can focus on is endless, but a few of the most common include an older person’s:
Stay tuned for my next post, when I will go into more detail on some of these issues. In the meantime, if you would like to explore if intergenerational mediation is right for you, schedule a consultation with me here.