Aging is challenging, both for elders and their loved ones and caretakers. Discussing how to deal with these challenges can sometimes feel impossible. When uncomfortable topics slam into decades of unresolved family issues, unpleasant dynamics and less-than-perfect communications, the understandable urge is to run. But you know that you can’t, and that makes things even more overwhelming.
It should not come as a shock that families who can reach consensus through discussion tend to do better than those who take each other to court. People who consciously agree to do something usually follow through more consistently than those who have resolutions imposed on them. The power of successfully working together can help strengthen family bonds: families can have Thanksgiving dinner without looking daggers across the table. Siblings bringing dueling Involuntary Guardianship claims concerning their parents don’t generally pass the turkey around.
In helping families grapple with difficult conversations, I use a form of mediation called “facilitative mediation.” What this means is that I do not suggest solutions. Family members are in a much better position to assess their options than I could ever be. My job is to direct the conversation and keep everyone focused on understanding each other’s deep interests and generating options based on that understanding.
I encourage families to include their trusted advisors, including attorneys, financial experts, health care consultants, and anyone else who can help bring clarity to the discussion. Please note that I will not act as an attorney or advocate for any party but rather take a neutral stance in order to help both parties achieve a resolution.
I am particularly concerned with ensuring that elder clients are able to participate to the fullest extent possible with accommodations to their physical and cognitive abilities. These may include holding meetings at health care facilities and scheduling at times of day when the elders are most likely to be fully engaged. I will make every effort to ensure that the needs of elders are presented as clearly as possible and understood before any final decisions are made.