Is an Elder Mediator Just an Old Mediator?

By: Sylvia Mayer, Mayer on Mediation (

While “elder mediator” could refer to a mediator of advanced age, Elder Mediator typically refers to a mediator who facilitates family discussion and decision-making regarding elder and adult care issues. Elder and Adult Care Mediation is a growing field focused on helping families navigate the challenges of aging. Through mediation, families can resolve issues regarding caregiving for an aging parent, estate disputes, financial and medical decision making authority, safety and health concerns, asset disposition, living arrangements and more.

Similar to the use of mediation in civil litigation, in Elder and Adult Care Mediation, a specially trained mediator facilitates dialog among family members so they can openly and constructively discuss their concerns and resolve conflicts arising in the context of aging. Essentially, it provides a forum for family decision-making. The end result is an agreed upon action plan for the future. Because the family members determine the issues to be addressed and develop their own solutions, each action plan is unique and reflects that particular family’s decisions.

A wide variety of issues can be addressed through Elder and Adult Care Mediation, including:

  • Conflict among family members regarding elder care, such as living arrangements, financial arrangements, decision making authority, end of life issues and daily activities (like driving);
  • Concerns regarding the level or quality of care of a family member in a care facility;
  • Conflict among family members regarding business transition or asset disposition; or
  • Contested probate or guardianship proceedings.

Through Elder and Adult Care Mediation, each family member has the opportunity to express their concerns and then the family, together, works to address concerns, resolve conflict, insure the elder’s safety, and develop a plan for the elder’s future care. When possible, the elder is encouraged to actively participate in developing the action plan (including incorporating elements to preserve the elder’s autonomy or independence) and in educating the family on his or her end of life preferences.

Elder and Adult Care Mediation is an alternative for families in conflict. Instead of going to court, continuing to fight, or doing nothing, mediation empowers families to work together and create the solution. The process is personal, private, collaborative and voluntary.

Mediation has been used for decades to achieve consensual resolution of civil litigation, commercial disputes and divorce proceedings. Given changing demographics in the U.S. and the increase in family conflict over elder care, there is an increasing need for dispute resolution in this area. Elder and Adult Care Mediation allows family’s to invest their time and energy in quality decision-making, rather than fighting, so they can move forward together.

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