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Elder Mediators Help Families Negotiate Tough Issues of Aging

Posted Apr 15, 2009 9:43 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Families negotiating difficult issues such as how to get Dad to give up his car keys or Mom to give up her house are using mediators to help with the conversation.

Good mediators will help elderly parents be heard, National Public Radio reports. Baltimore lawyer and mediator Bob Rhudy told the network that even an elderly person with Alzheimer's or dementia can express things such as “what family member that they are comfortable with, who they care for, respect, trust, where they like to live."

"They may not have the capability to make substantial legal or financial decisions, but they certainly have the ability to express opinions and wishes and desires,” he said.

In one case, mediator Rikk Larsen came up with a solution to help an elderly man having trouble paying bills. The man’s accountant sent an assistant every couple of weeks to help with the task. "It became this kind of business meeting that the father had, and he got to maintain his dignity and his sense of control, and the bills got paid," Larsen told NPR.

Few regulations apply to the growing elder mediation field, according to the story. Penny Hommel, who trains elder mediators at the Center for Social Gerontology, says too many people doing elder mediation don’t have the background to handle complex legal, health and emotional issues of aging.

"In reality, anybody who wants to can put a shingle out that says, 'I'm a mediator,' " she said.

Hat tip to Court-o-Rama.

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