I have had the privilege to mediate a number of claims involving elder care. These cases are always challenging and put the mediator to the test.
USING A MEDIATOR TO BREAK THROUGH TO WHAT IS TRULY IMPORTANT
One case comes to mind wherein mediation was instrumental in resolving elder care issues. Joan and Jim were both previously widowed. They married ten years before. Joan had a substantial nest egg. Jim brought to the marriage charm and a loving spirit but no assets. Both Joan and Jim had children from their prior marriages. Joan immediately included Jim on title to all properties and bank accounts.
The problem arose years after they were married when Jim developed dementia. While Joan also suffered from slight dementia, Jim was incapable of caring for himself and was confined to a home for Alzheimer patients. At this point, the two sets of children stepped in, with Jims children seeking care for their father using the couple’s assets with Joan’s children resisting having their mother’s money pay for the expensive care.
Lawsuits were filed by both contingents, each claiming elder abuse, among other allegations. The parties became embroiled in a bitter dispute the end result of which would be that Jim would not receive proper care and the couple’s nest egg would be eaten up in litigation costs and fees.
With that as a background, the parties met in mediation. Joan and her children attended, as did the children of Jim. Jim could not attend, as his condition made it impossible. Hours were spent in mediation. Jim’s children accused Joan’s children of being money hungry and greedy. Joan’s children were concerned that their mother’s assets were being stripped away from her to care for Jim, who had nothing before the marriage.
The parties were hopelessly deadlocked after several hours until an impasse was reached. As a last resort, Joan and her children met for what they expected was the last time. The mediator turned to Joan and asked her if she loved Jim. She responded that she did love Jim. She did have slight dementia but she expressed that she would do anything to care for him. “Does that include using your money to have Jim cared for?” Joan responded that it did.
As these comments were stated in front of Joan’s children, they recanted. Twenty minutes later, the matter was resolved; assets being used to care for Jim, while an allocation of the assets were set aside for the care of Joan.
This was a mediation I did several years ago. I have changed the couple’s names as well as some of the facts to conceal the couple’s identity. This is an example of the good that can be done by mediating elder cases.
Sometimes having a third party mediator can unwind years of conflict and agony. Sometimes the stress of the circumstances places blinders on both elders as well as the people who care for them. These blinders can sometimes be removed by intercession by a mediator trained in discussing conflict with people who are in the middle of conflict.