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When No One Wants to Talk…

Mediation and Business Consulting by Kathleen Kauth.

What do you do when you are concerned about your parents whose health is deteriorating?  How do you handle talking with other family members about serious issues when they don't think anything is wrong?  What happens when you are the one who is spending time with your older adults, and you see the degeneration happening but those who live far away  don't get a full picture of how your loved ones' life is changing?

You can lead a horse to water....

In eldercare mediation, a mediator works with family members who are experiencing conflict as they try to come to grips with the new and ever-changing realities of their loved ones' old age.  Mediation is a voluntary system that allows an objective third-party to help reduce the emotion and conflict between people so that decisions can be made.  Voluntary is the key word!  Mediation doesn't work when it is forced.  


"It's too expensive", "It's not necessary", "Why would we drag a stranger into family business?" may be some of the objections you hear when you suggest eldercare mediation.  The purpose of eldercare mediation is to come to agreement about care issues for the older adults involved.  Eldercare mediation should involve the older adults if possible, so their wishes are understood.  And it should involve anyone who will be participating in care decisions for them.  When these parties experience conflict about the type of care needed, timing of care, responsibility for care etc. decisions do not get made in the best way for the older adult.  

Tips to overcome objections

Here are some hints to overcome the objections:

Mediation is too expensive:  The cost of not doing something is higher.  Say the older adult lives independently (but really shouldn't), and falls and breaks a hip.  Had the family been able to discuss assisted living, or companion care in a timely manner, they could have avoided the costs of emergency services and rehab. 

Mediation isn't necessary:  This one is more difficult, because sometimes people just choose not to see conflict or participate in difficult discussions.  Mediation is only necessary when there is conflict between parties.  Ignoring conflict doesn't make a situation go away.  If one party doesn't want to discuss the health care issues that are happening, you have a few choices:

1.  Talk with the older adult first.  Lay out your concerns in very direct language and ask to have a conversation about it with other family members.

2.  If you have power of attorney – make the decisions yourself after giving siblings reasonable time to participate in discussions.

3.  If someone else has power of attorney, and you are concerned about the decisions or lack thereof, and you are having trouble talking with them, suggest mediation.  If they say no, the next step is legal action which is TREMENDOUSLY more expensive (but may be necessary).

Why would we drag someone else into family business?  This is actually quite a common objection.  When there is trouble within a family, many close ranks and prefer to handle it (or not) within the family.  But – when  you keep doing what you've always done, you will keep getting what you've always got!  A mediator is an objective third party who can help remove emotions from an issue so it can be addressed logically.  They maintain confidentiality and provide an outlet for the anger, frustration, sadness and stress involved with making these decisions.

It may take time

So what if you have made the suggestion to start talking about the issues, laid them out logically, and offered to go to mediation, and there is STILL no interest in participating from other members of the family?  

1.  Continue to bring up the issues, 

2.  Make decisions where you can, and 

3.  Continue to advocate for someone to help sort things out.  

Unfortunately, because of the fragility of life, you may actually be on borrowed time with making decisions.  Be patient but persistent with your advocacy.  The article Eldercare Mediation: Setting Families up for Success can be a good place to begin educating people about the benefits of eldercare mediation.


Kathleen Kauth

Kathleen Kauth is President/Owner of K.T. Beck Enterprises, LLC a Mediation and Business Consulting firm which focuses on using Mediation techniques to help individuals, families and businesses resolve conflicts. With areas of interest in Eldercare and Business Mediation, we are able to provide a wide variety of personalized services.   MORE >

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