Aging isn’t always simple. Even the closest of families may find themselves at odds over critical aging-related choices. Older adults and their family members may disagree about: 1) plans for care; 2) whether it is time for an older adult to move from the family home and, if so, to where; 3) whether the older adult is a safe driver; 4) plans for financing long-term care; 5) the fair division of opportunities for family members to provide assistance; 6) whether a guardian/conservator is needed and, if so, who should serve; 7) how best to meet the needs of an adult with disabilities; and 8) distribution of estate assets after a death. Families and senior care professionals may disagree over the quality of services provided or the billing for those services. Residents in senior housing may have conflicts with management or other residents.
At AIM Aging Issues Mediation, we help families stop fighting. Our eldercare mediators serve as neutral facilitators to help parties talk with each other, listen to each other and move forward in a respectful fashion to find mutually acceptable solutions to their conflicts. We help parties build consensus, share ownership of their problems and develop realistic solutions to meet the challenges facing older, ill or disabled adults today.
We welcome calls directly from older adults or family members who want to decrease family tensions, as well as from the courts, attorneys, doctors, care facilities and other senior care professionals who want to help families resolve conflicts and preserve vital family relationships.
DeLila Bergan practiced as an elder law attorney for many years before transitioning to eldercare mediation. She worked with clients who were preparing wills, trust, or powers of attorney and with those applying for governmental benefits (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, VA. She assisted families struggling with dementia and guided them through the guardianship/conservatorship process. As a court-appointed guardian and conservator, she protected the rights of elderly clients and assisted them with both care and financial decisions. She worked with clients who had lost a loved one to probate estates and transfer assets. She worked with clients and Adult Protective Services to protect vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. Those experiences deepened her understanding of the issues facing aging, ill and disabled adults and family caregivers.
Ms. Bergan is also a bioethicist with a special focus on aging and end-of-life issues. This training in medical ethics and patient rights complements her legal background.
Individual and family-decision making for aging individuals is a complex mix of practical day-to-day concerns, financial quandaries, questions of physical and cognitive capacities and decisions for long-term and end-of-life care, all of which center on the needs of the individual at the heart of the controversy. Ms. Bergan’s legal and bioethical training and experience make her uniquely qualified as a mediator to assist older adults and family members in working together on a wide range of challenges.
AIM Aging Issues Mediation focuses on adult family and eldercare facilitation/mediation.
At AIM Aging Issues Mediation, we begin through an intake process in which we talk with potential parties to the mediation in advance of any mediation sessions. The intake conversations are designed to help parties understand the mediation process and to help us identify both issues of concern and the persons needed to participate in order to resolve existing questions and disagreements.
We next encourage all parties to meet together for an initial group session to improve communication, lessen tensions and identify primary issues for discussion. When it is helpful, we provide education on aging issues and we refer families to appropriate senior care professionals for expert assistance. We then follow up to facilitate communication among the parties as they explore resources and potential solutions.
We again encourage all parties to meet together for discussion when it seems they have enough information to form a plan to meet the needs of the individual(s) at the heart of the controversy. We help the parties define and state their plan in writing and ask each to sign off on the plan as a pledge of their support going forward.
Throughout the process, we help those involved express themselves to other family members and, in turn, listen to others. We encourage parties to express their feelings, but require that they treat everyone with respect throughout the mediation process. We continue to remind everyone involved that the decisions they make must be the best choices possible for the older adult involved and should honor his/her wishes to the extent possible.
DeLila Bergan earned her undergraduate degree from Cleveland State University, followed by a law degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, both in Cleveland, Ohio. She subsequently earned a Master’s degree in Bioethics and Health Policy from the Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy, Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago, in Chicago, Illinois.
At AIM Mediation, we have a flexible approach to fees. Some mediations involve several issues and many parties, while others are less complex. Once we start our intake and identify the primary issues and parties involved, we will quote a flat fee for our services. Whenever possible, we encourage parties to share payment of our fees so that everyone is invested when sessions begin.
For ongoing facilitation/mediation services for senior care professionals, we can charge either a per-session fee or work from a monthly-averaged fee.
For court-ordered mediations, the judge may specify an hourly or flat fee.