This article outlines the complexities of eldercare disputes and explains why the use of two mediators (co-mediation) can be the best option.

Disagreement is a normal part of any relationship. In many ways disagreement is necessary to help define a person’s individuality or uniqueness. What makes disagreement disagreeable is when unpleasant feelings of anger, resentment or isolation surface. Then the disagreement can become a dispute that can truly separate people and break down the communication necessary to solve problems. Eldercare issues themselves may be quite intricate, incorporating issues around healthcare, finances, living arrangements and legal issues. When the disagreements and conflict concern an elder family member and eldercare issues, the dynamics can become very complex and the prospect of resolution can seem overwhelming. Even though eldercare issues tend to focus on one member of the family, the elder, eldercare issues often involve the entire family.

Differences of opinion about eldercare issues often re-stimulate uncomfortable family dynamics that may have been present for many years, and often stem from interactions that have been "under the surface" for decades. These feelings and dynamics can be triggered by a family crisis, such as the illness or

death of an aging parent. Furthermore, eldercare disputes tend to be multi-party disputes that may involve grown siblings, grandchildren, a new romantic partner and, perhaps, a facility such as a nursing home or assisted care facility. There are often other parties involved such as geriatric care managers, doctors, financial advisors and attorneys. Each party in an eldercare dispute has their own interests, point of view and ideas about resolution. To effectively resolve these types of disputes, input from all of the interested parties may be necessary.

Mediation as a tool for dispute resolution is not new. It is a process that has been used very effectively for years in divorce, environment, workplace and other types of arenas in which the parties have a vested interest in maintaining a relationship. It is only recently that mediation has been applied to eldercare disputes. However, the mediation process lends itself well to eldercare conflicts because these disputes typically involve family members who have a vested interest in maintaining a relationship. Professionals and agencies working with an elder also have a vested interest in maintaining a positive working relationship with their client’s family. In elder disputes involving legal issues there is often a desire to avoid the cost and emotional expense of going to court.

Because of the complexity of the eldercare issues themselves as well as the intricacy of the family dynamics involved, ELDEResolutions often recommends co-mediation, or the use of two mediators, to work with all the parties in a dispute. There are several distinct advantages to the co-mediation model:

  • ELDEResolutions can better address the complexities
    of a multi-party dispute
    and the eldercare issues
    by having the combined expertise of two mediators
    to help the parties explore the broadest range of
    options and solutions.
  • In these types of conflicts, two mediators can better support all the parties and each other as a team.
  • Two mediators can observe more and divide duties,
    which is very important when there are three or more parties in the mediation. The idea that “two heads are better than one” certainly applies here.
  • Sometimes it is important to have a gender-balanced mediation team. We can offer you this service at ELDEResolutions.
  • The hourly rate of co-mediation is about the same as what one party might pay for an attorney. In mediation, however, we recommend that the parties share the cost (rather than multiply the cost with multiple attorneys) so the fee to each individual is more reasonable. People are usually more equally committed to the mediation process when they share the cost.
  • Co-mediators typically help parties resolve disputes in a shorter time period than through litigation.
  • For all of the reasons above, two mediators working together help to create a positive synergy that makes the process much more powerful and effective.

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