As an elder (or adult family) mediator, I constantly wonder why more families with disagreements about caring for an older adult parent or handling vexing estate matters, don’t engage a mediator to help them resolve their disputes.
We’ve heard a lot about doing a better job of marketing ourselves. More involvement with social media. Better networking. And so on.
So, is it because family members in conflict don’t know about elder mediation?
Because they’d rather avoid confronting the issue (and other family members) than resolve their conflicting interests?
Or, are relationships so damaged, they can’t even bring themselves to face each other?
A colleague, Chaplain John M. DiLeo of Gainesville, Florida, suggests two more troubling explanations:
First is the relationship between trust and secrets. While mediation may be a “softer approach,” John believes that it can also be “a more vulnerable experience…requiring parties to trust the mediator and the process.” It also requires “all parties to own the process and the outcome.”
A second aspect of the relation between trust and secrets is this: “Everyone wants to be known, but nobody wants to be ‘found out.’ If a party engages in a win-lose, adversarial approach, she or he always has someone else to blame for the outcome. On the other hand, mediation may require one to ‘come clean’ and admit some things to him or herself and others that she does not want to acknowledge.” Issues that have been buried for years may bubble up and sour relationships even more. In other words, why risk subjecting oneself to embarrassment or humiliation? Just let the situation simmer a while longer or let the court decide.
I wonder. Does this, in part, explain why family members are reluctant to try mediation?
If so, maybe we need to improve how we reach out to professionals such as care managers, elder law attorneys, and estate planners, who are on the front lines with these families. Like other elder mediators, we hear war stories about troubled families all the time. What we’d like to learn is how you may have encouraged them to try mediation.
© Sig Cohen and Beyond Dispute Associates, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sig Cohen and Beyond Dispute Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.