There is a new mediation field evolving in response to our aging population. While the fundamental principles are the same as other forms of mediation, elder mediation focuses on issues triggered by transitions inherent in the aging process: medical decisions, safety concerns, housing modifications, estate planning, etc. These issues often affect the entire family and they frequently exacerbate underlying, long standing, systemic conflicts within the family that need to be addressed in order to move forward successfully.
There are several clear differences between elder mediation and divorce or other types of family mediation. Since there may be no specific timeframe or shared view as to the outcome of discussions as in divorce mediation, action is often put off and these delays can decrease options, increase costs and may put health and safety at risk. Further complicating matters, there are usually multiple issues and more than a few family members involved. And there is often a question of dependence vs. independence due to an elder’s physical, cognitive, or financial situation. Disruptive conflict within the family can ensue as a result of misunderstandings, entrenched behavior patterns, disagreement over what is needed and lack of information about what services are available.
Panelists include Arline Kardasis, Rikk Larsen, Crystal Thorpe, and Blair Trippe, all founding partners of Elder Decisions, along with the Honorable John R. Maher, who recently joined the Elder Decisions team. Judge Maher served as Administrative Judge of the New Hampshire Probate Courts from 1990 until his retirement in 2007 and is a pioneer in introducing mediation into the New Hampshire Probate Court system. They will describe their work in this emerging field and share some preliminary conclusions about well-considered and innovative dispute intervention processes appropriate for adult family conflicts.
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