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Solve Family Caregiving Squabbles with the Power of Mediation

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Some months back we found a valuable article on the website Senior Care Advice that helped shed new light on a familiar but often overlooked topic: family mediation. Even though the article came out last spring, the subject is always a timely one, and we encourage you to click here to read this thought-provoking piece.  It points out once again something that we always remind our clients and radio listeners about:  how engaging a family mediator at the right time can not only save thousands of dollars but can also hold families together in stressful times.

The article quotes a study from the insurance firm MetLife stating that nearly 10 million adult children are currently providing care for their aging parents, a figure that is growing continually.  In fact, says MetLife, “With the onslaught of Baby Boomers reaching old age, the number of adult children caring for their parents…has tripled over the last 15 years.”  This can create enormous complications in the lives of caregivers and open the door to unexpected conflict, something we see all too frequently in our practice here at AgingOptions. “Family disputes between siblings and even parents and children can cause rifts in the family dynamics just when the need for solidarity is at its greatest,” the article says.

We often counsel family members who are in the thick of arguments and conflicts with those closest to them, and the number one emotion is often surprise ­­– they can’t believe this kind of conflict can be happening in their family. But family strife involving caring for Mom or Dad is sadly all too common, and in our experience the surface causes of these divisions are predictable:  it’s usually about money, control and independence. In fact, though, the emotional roots often run much deeper. The article points out that “It is usually one family member that bears the load of nearly all the care and that can cause stress, burn-out and resentment.” When that happens, the other family members often feel guilt, which makes for more conflict.

That’s where a mediator can play a critical role in holding the family members together. By engaging a mediator early on, family members, including aging parents, have a “safe, neutral environment” where issues can get resolved. A mediator is a well-trained neutral party who can listen to all sides of a family dispute and suggest creative solutions.  Here at AgingOptions our attorneys have served many times as family mediators, and we have seen firsthand the wisdom of engaging a mediator early in the planning process. Let us emphasize that word “early.” Too many families wait until a parent’s physical and mental problems are acute and the challenges of caring for them have grown intense. Another drawback caused by procrastination in settling simmering disputes is that Mom and Dad may have become incapable of making their wishes known, opening the door to all sorts of sibling rivalries and jealousies. If you sit down with a mediator while Mom or Dad is physically and mentally able to participate actively in the planning process, things go much more smoothly. “If the elder makes the decisions beforehand, they don’t feel like their independence has been taken away,” says the Senior Care Advice article.

There’s much more to consider in deciding how and when to engage a mediator, but we urge you to have the conversation among your own family members sooner rather than later. Please do let us serve in that capacity if you feel the need for unbiased professional mediation in your family situation. With our decades of combined experience, we at AgingOptions can provide suggestions about the legal documents you’ll need to have in place in order to make sure your parents’ wishes are respected. We can help you and your siblings put important issues down on paper in a simple agreement that deals with potentially difficult issues. We can also suggest ways to compensate the primary caregiver, a topic that can lead to family feuds if not adequately addressed. These and many more are examples of potentially touchy matters where a mediator can save your family’s unity.

All of these factors may help you plan for the future of your parents, but what about your own retirement planning? Are you satisfied that you have laid the foundation for a fruitful retirement that takes into account your health care needs, your housing choices, your financial concerns and your legal affairs, along with your family dynamics? An AgingOptions LifePlan can do all that. That’s our term for a comprehensive multi-faceted retirement plan, and we can help you get started toward developing your own. Your LifePlan helps you make sure your retirement dreams and wishes become reality. Why not find out more about this breakthrough in retirement planning strategy? The first step is often to attend one of our free LifePlanning Seminars, an information-packed session that will help you begin the process. Then if you wish we will meet with you personally to put all aspects of your plan into place.

Find out all the dates, times and locations, and register for a free LifePlanning Seminar on the Upcoming Events tab on this website (you can simply click here). You can also call us during the week and we’ll gladly assist you. We’ll look forward to meeting you at an upcoming seminar in your area.

(originally reported at

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