Sensitive situations in a family can be difficult and rife with emotion. Often the focus of the difficulty is a life transition of an elder or a lingering dispute between adult siblings. This service of Mediation Partners New England focuses on conflict prevention as well as effectively addressing on-going disagreements. In the United States, caring for a family elder is a fact of life for over 39.8 million people over the age of 15. In times of life transition, challenges arise in matters of finance, medical care, family possessions, safety, and living arrangements to name a few. Family disagreements are to be expected and some conflict can be constructive. Too much conflict or lingering conflict is harmful to an elder, the care-giver, and the family in general. The goal of this focus is to produce family harmony and understanding.
Value and Benefits
Using a mediator for decisions around elders or on adult sibling issues has several benefits. A mediator . . .
- Is a neutral third party who will work to gain the trust of polarized family members and organize candid and respectful discussions;
- Is a professional who is educated in helping people with differing views to discuss sensitive issues and arrive at a way to go forward;
- Who has had specialized training in elder and adult sibling issues, is sensitive to associated topics such as care alternatives, capacity, age bias, estate matters, ethical issues, etc.; and
- In this specialty has often put together a cadre of specialists that the family can consult such as geriatric case workers, tax consultants, estate attorneys, certified financial planners, insurance specialists, etc.
The outcomes of using mediation services to sort out elder or adult sibling issues are many:
- Tough, historically avoided subjects can be addressed.
- Lingering issues are finally addressed.
- Family members involved in the issue feel they have been heard and they have had an opportunity to shape the resolution.
- Mediation can heal bruised relationships and set the family on a constructive path forward.
- By opening the door to candid discussions the family has a model to use in future sensitive situations.
- The issues may not get resolved or a clear way forward determined but family members are better informed and misperceptions addressed.
As a result of an inheritance from their parents, three sisters jointly own a summer cottage and 70 acres on a lovely lake. Two of the sisters live in the area and use it frequently. A third sister lives 2,000 miles away and is seldom able to use it. The cottage needs about $10,000 worth of long over-due maintenance but the distant sister doesn’t want to share the expense and is so strapped for money she would like to see the cottage sold and the proceeds split.
Dad lives alone in the house he shared with his wife and five children. Three of the children live from several hundred to thousands of miles away. Two children remain in the vicinity and help Dad with chores, doctor’s appointments, and whatever else is needed. One of the two has power of attorney and is joint owner on Dad’s bank accounts. The second child in the vicinity is noticing that Dad is forgetting things more frequently and a few weeks ago visited and saw that Dad left the oven on from the previous night’s dinner. A child that lives in England is worried and would like to explore having Dad live in an assisted living facility. Two siblings agree and the other three don’t. Dad wants to remain in his own home.
A son noticed that his Dad’s car has a number of unexplained dents. After conferring with his two siblings they all feel that it is time for Dad to stop driving. Dad disagrees. Also, Mom is complaining that she is receiving calls from bill collection agencies but when she asked her husband he says not to worry.
A daughter is worried that her siblings are taking advantage of her mother. All of a sudden the mother has been forced to live in an assisted living facility against her wishes. Coincidentally the worried daughter just divorced and needs a place to live. She would like to have the family buy a house in which she and her mother can live.