Family Feud

Imagine yourself at war with your family:  Mom desperately needs nursing home care or assisted living, but your sister refuses to let her go, insisting that she can continue to serve as the primary caregiver even though you can clearly see that she’s letting your mother’s health slide.  Or maybe your brother wants to prematurely move Dad to a care facility rather than exploring the possibilities of in-home care that could preserve his independence a while longer.  Maybe everyone has good intentions, but none of you has the expertise to really know which decision is the best for the elder’s long-term well-being.  With the pressures of caregiving closing in and the stress of operating under a limited budget or time frame, tempers run hot and fuses burn up quickly, creating a volatile situation for the whole family.

One of the most important factors in giving an aging loved one the best possible care is making sure all the caregivers are on the same page.  Ideally everyone will work together to make sound decisions and share responsibilities.  However, the reality is often far from ideal.  When caregivers approach the challenges of elder care from different perspectives, family relationships may suffer and the elder may be left standing in the crossfire of feuding would-be caregivers.  In a situation like this, nobody wins, least of all the elder in need of care.

Give Peace a Chance

Instead of allowing your family’s relationships to suffer or letting disputes devolve into stressful and costly court battles, why not seek the help of an elder care mediator?  An elder care mediator is a professional neutral moderator who facilitates conversation between opposing parties and brings them to a peaceful and mutually satisfactory resolution.  Elder care mediators specialize in resolving conflict related to aging or disability, such as making health care decisions, using resources effectively, choosing living facilities, and asset preservation.

Everybody Wins

Many times it goes against our instincts to invite a stranger to help settle private family matters.  But the advantages of mediation are well worth it, especially when the alternative is adversarial court proceedings.  The family maintains self-determination, reaching its own solutions rather than allowing a judge’s ruling to decide the outcome.  Family members save lots of money by avoiding the expenses of court proceedings.  They also avoid the stress, emotional damage, and publicity of adversarial litigation.  Valued relationships can be preserved or restored through the process of mediation, which encourages the family to work through their differences and start thinking as a team working toward a common goal.  Finally, the process is personal, confidential, and informal, allowing families to resolve their disputes efficiently and in privacy.

Finding a Mediator

Asking for help – and even knowing who to ask – isn’t always easy.  Choosing the right mediator is a lot like choosing a good personal counselor.  Many professionals who practice as mediators are licensed in another professional capacity such as attorneys, social workers, counselors, or care managers.  While some states require certification for a specific type of mediator, mediation is still a largely unregulated industry.  Make sure you look into a mediator’s qualifications and ask for references before inviting his or her involvement in an already delicate situation.  The Tennessee Valley Mediation Association provides a listing of mediators and links to other mediation resources in Tennessee.

Elder Law of East Tennessee is now offering Elder Care Mediation services that combine the techniques of family mediation with legal expertise and a targeted knowledge base of elder care issues.  Elder Law attorney Amelia Crotwell, owner and founder of Elder Law of East Tennessee, has undergone extensive training in family mediation as required by the Tennessee Supreme Court to become a Rule 31 Listed Family Mediator.  She has also accrued twelve years of experience handling elder care matters and has earned nationally and state recognized certifications in Elder Law.  To contact Amelia for more information about elder care mediation services, call 865-951-2410 or visit