Even the closest of sibling relationships can fall to pieces over issues relating to aged care of parents. If you and your family members find yourselves embroiled in conflict over such issues, the best recourse is mediation. An expert mediator can guide you through the available choices calmly and capably until a resolution is reached. It just takes time, patience and a willingness to listen to each other and work together to find the best possible solution.
At 83, Joan had been living independently for many years since her husband passed away, but was finding it difficult to maintain the family home after a recent fall.
Her son, John, and daughter, Diane, became concerned and John suggested that his mother sell her house and use the money to build an extension onto his home, where she could live safely and be closer to her grandchildren.
This seemed an ideal solution, but even though there was no dispute in this case, the family decided that the details of this arrangement and the financial arrangements needed to be clearly defined in order to prevent any future cause for disgruntlement and disputes.
The family arranged a meeting through the Community Justice Centres (CJC) of New South Wales and sat down with a facilitator who helped them to explore the impact of the sale of Joan’s house, whether her investment in John’s house was intended as a gift or an investment and other matters that needed to be clearly spelled out.
They then talked about potential arrangements should Joan’s health deteriorate, as well as day to day living arrangements such as mutual expectations in terms of housework, garden maintenance and care of the grandchildren. Finally, it was agreed that John would provide ongoing care for Joan in exchange for the investment in his house and increased value of his property. Each family member received a detailed written agreement and all departed the meeting feeling satisfied with the arrangements and secure in the knowledge that future disputes had been averted.
The lesson from this case study is to act as soon as a problem and decision-making need arises. Indecision and haggling over what to do can only lead to further conflict and, in extreme cases, neglect and even abuse of the elderly parent or parents.
The services of the CJC are free and mediators will travel to a suitable meeting site that suits all parties involved. At mediation, everyone is able to have their say separately and talk about ways to resolve the problem. CJC mediators help with clear communication, ensure everyone keeps their cool and write up any agreement reached. If there are financial arrangements involved, it can then be wise to have a lawyer draw up a legal document.
In several overseas countries, particularly Canada and Ireland, there is a growing awareness that, with ageing populations, there is an increasing need for specialist elder mediation services. Elder mediation is being recognised 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 relationships critical to the well-being of the older person.
Says Judy McCann-Beranger, a qualified member of the Elder Mediation International Network, “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. 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 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.
“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 established and, in some situations, bonds are re-established.”
The recently formed Elder Mediation Australasian Network lists qualified professionals around Australia or call the CJC on 1800 990 777.