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What is Elder Mediation?

Elder Mediation is a cooperative process in which a professionally trained elder mediator helps facilitate discussions that assist people in addressing the myriad of changes and stresses that often occurs throughout the family life cycle. Elder mediation typically involves larger numbers of participants including older people, family members, friends and others who are willing to give support. Depending on the situation it is not uncommon to include paid caregivers, hospital staff, nursing home and or community care representatives, physicians and other professionals.

Over the past 20 years mediation with age-related issues has been emerging as a distinct specialty in the field. Elder Mediation is now being recognized internationally as an important step in the continuum of care - promoting wellness, developing prevention strategies and enhancing quality of life. The focus is on addressing concerns and issues while maintaining and strengthening the myriad of relationships critical to the well-being of the older person. Typically it involves many players - predominantly family members - who are concerned or affected by unexpected or unresolved events, or a multitude of other issues including:
  • Health care – at home, in the community, in the hospital or in continuing care and long term care communities.
  • Retirement
  • Financial concerns
  • Housing and living arrangements
  • Nursing home decisions, medical decisions
  • Safety
  • Environment
  • Care for the caregiver as well as caregiver burden
  • Intergenerational relationships
  • Relationship concerns
  • Holiday schedules
  • New marriages and step-family situations
  • Abuse & neglect
  • Religious issues
  • Family business
  • Driving
  • End of life decisions
  • Guardianship
  • Estate planning
Elder Mediation is based on a wellness model that promotes a person centred approach for all participants – tapping the collective creativity while exploring the many ways that will best work to enhance continued quality of life for all concerned. Often family members who come to the table with poor communication skills are surprised at how, with the help of a mediator, they actually learn new ways of talking with each other. Participants in the mediation identify topics they wish to discuss or issues they wish to resolve and work towards reaching agreements that attempt to promote well-being and quality of life. Ideas for ways of helping are generated as people come together and talk about how they can move forward together supporting each other, often through some very difficult times. Elder Mediation promotes communication and the involvement of more family members and others who wish to help. It is becoming more common for hospitals, nursing homes, or community care homes to participate in and often to promote and initiate the process.

Elder mediators who are trained in this specialty apply their highly developed people skills to the intricate life issues facing older people with sensitivity, acute listening skills and inclusive language to make sure the mediation flows respectfully. Elder Mediation is designed to create a better way to provide for co-operative conversations and conflict resolution strategies relating to issues of aging. Research is underway to explore the benefits experienced and reported by family members. It is well recognized that the level and intensity of family support is a very important factor in the older person’s adjustment to changes in their way of life. Family members who may have been uninvolved for years are invited to become involved. It is heart-warming and not surprising how many family members and close friends answer the request to participate in mediation and to provide support. Relationships are strengthened, close bonds are established, and in some situations, bonds are reestablished. Family and organizational resilience can be at its best.

(Excerpt from A Caregiver’s Guide for Alzheimer and Related Diseases - Judy McCann-Beranger - Due 2014)