Arriving At What's Best For Elderly Parents: Specialized Mediators Can Work With Families To Settle Elder Care Disputes

In 2007, John and Ginger Price knew that it was time to move John's mother, Mayna, from an assisted-living facility in South Carolina to a nursing home near their home in Seven Hills, Ohio. John's sister, who lived in South Carolina, could no longer shoulder the increasing caregiving responsibilities. But Mayna was having none of it.

"She didn't want to move," says Ginger, 65. "If anything, she wanted us to move to South Carolina." As tensions escalated, the Prices realized they might need outside help. They called John Bertschler, an elder mediator and co-owner of Northcoast Conflict Solutions. The family met with Bertschler in his Cleveland office to discuss possible solutions to the impasse.

Just 90 minutes after the meeting began, Mayna decided that she was ready to make the move to Ohio. "Dr. Bertschler was able to approach the issue in a way that helped her understand that the move would be good for her," Ginger says. Mayna died in 2008, a year after moving into the nursing home.

As society ages, it's become more common for adult children to provide assistance to their elderly parents. But making sure that everyone, including the parent, agrees on a care plan can often be a challenge. A new type of go-between, known as an elder mediator, can guide squabbling siblings and elderly parents to solutions before conflicts tear a family apart. The trigger points tend to be how money will be spent, who will take care of the elder and whether the person who wants to do the caregiving is competent to do it.

Mediators will guide the conversation to get input. And while mediators can share ideas that have worked for other families if there is a deadlockthe parties themselves make the decision. Elder mediators can help family members hammer out a process for solving problems.

While minor disagreements may be wrapped up in less than two hours, some complicated cases can take weeks. Ideally, all of the involved parties will agree to meet in person with the mediator. Large groups could appoint two or three family members to represent the group.

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