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Using Elder Mediation To Resolve Conflict Among Families, Seniors, And Organizations (Book Review)

The Intent

The intent of Mss. Bertschler and Cocklin’s book is to point out the obvious. The obvious being, that Elder Care is an area of life filled with potential conflict. And wherever there is conflict, there is a need for Mediation. The realities of Elder Care are almost an inevitable mine field that most people at some point in their lives will face. To mental health professionals, this concept is a virtual “given.” However, some of us in the field of mediation may not have yet stumbled upon this epiphany, that in dealing with Elder Care, people are dealing with “families, seniors and organizations.”

While the dynamics of the conflicts are different depending on the players and the situations, it is not possible to conceive of a situation involving the above stakeholders which would NOT include conflicts. Families by their very nature are breeding grounds for conflict. Seniors often have a very different mindset than younger adults. And organizations are bureaucratic ‘machines’ that are not always easily mastered.

Issues, Applications, And Use

The authors describe well the areas of potential conflict in Elder Care. With a focus on the mental health and personal interactivity components, the concepts of “chronological age” versus “psychological age” versus “functional age” versus “social age” are all characteristics of the interpersonal dynamics of Elder Care. In addition, considerations with respect to things like “empty nest syndrome,” “retirement,” and “major illness” are all factors that put stress on the Elder Care client.

The book then describes situations and topics that may or may not be suitable for mediation. This is important, as not all situations are mediatable. The authors take a moderately narrow view of the types of things that could be achieved in mediation, however, the conceptual basis of the application of mediation to the Elder Care problems is well directed.

In addition, the book covers a list of seven steps in using mediation with Elder Care conflicts. These “Steps” are as follows:

1) Introductions
2) Problem Exposure
3) Summary of Problems
4) Identification of Main Issues
5) Brainstorming
6) Prioritizing Ideas
7) Conclusion & Agreement

This step process suggests a potential new model for Elder Care mediation. We now find that each specific situation calls for tools from many models of mediation, depending on the people, the authority and the perceptions and needs of the parties; so Elder Care mediations with its specific tools will contribute and gain to and from the main body of knowledge on mediation.

Case Studies & Conclusion

Perhaps the best part of the book is a set of moderately detailed case studies which give examples of conflict in several key areas of Elder Care:

Hospitals Care Giver/Elder Disputes Assisted Living/Nursing Homes/Retirement Centers Estate Matters

These are key areas for conflict and all of them can be assisted with the application of mediation.

Finally, the authors remind the reader that they are not alone in this process. There is a well organized list of entities that can help the person in need find the resources required to get the proper assistance. And naturally, Elder Care conflicts are just conflicts, most of which can be assisted to resolution through mediation.


Jon Linden

Jon Linden is a Mediator, Trainer and Business Consultant. He holds an BS in biology and an MBA, both from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. Jon spent 20 years in the Food Service Distribution business, where he was the COO and Sr. V-P of a Distribution Center of a major… MORE >

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