Mom has Alzheimer’s disease, your siblings refuse to talk to one another, and your kids are too busy to lend a helping hand.
Somehow, all the caregiving duties have been left to you. What to do?
Call an elder mediator.
You may not have heard the term before, but, with an aging population, the emerging practice of elder mediation could soon become a staple in age-related care.
The practice is much like other forms of mediation: An objective, arm’s-length party helps resolve family disputes regarding the care of an aging loved one (anything from housing and finances to caregiving routines and end-of-life planning).
Elder mediators bring together circles of care — anyone from brothers or daughters to best friends or church colleagues — to have essential yet difficult conversations in a balanced, focused fashion. The ideal results are improved communication, evenly divided responsibilities, and the best possible care for the loved one.
As long as they come to the table, [an elder mediator] can facilitate the process.
“The first thing that everybody has in common is that, wow, you’re all here,” says Judy M. Beranger, an elder mediator in St. John’s, Nfld. “You’ve gone out of your way to get here because you all care about what happens to your loved one … As long as they come to the table, [an elder mediator] can facilitate the process.”
Beranger has been facilitating these processes since the early 1990s, when she noticed many families dealing with Alzheimer’s were being referred to counselling. “The families needed a conversation more than they needed counselling,” she says. Elder mediation was virtually unheard of in North America.
Alzheimer’s disease, Beranger says, adds a sensitive layer to the mediation process.
While it may be psychologically harmful to exclude elders from the discussion, those with dementia may not be fit to participate and therefore may need a spouse, best friend or sibling to serve as their voice.