As we get older, our needs and preferences change, sometimes dramatically. Older people and their families and carers may face a range of new issues – health, emotional, practical, legal, financial or ethical. They often come in combination.
Planning for or responding to these issues may call for difficult conversations within families. They can also trigger disagreements and conflict. People from outside the family may need to be involved, such as carers, care managers, health professionals, social workers. There may be concerns about safeguarding or capacity.
Just as we call on experts to help with many of life’s problems – from home maintenance to health – elder mediators offer a set of skills which support you to deal well with these situations.
Elder mediation can help you come to a shared decision, agree a joint plan, or to re-set or re-build relationships. You stand to gain understanding, clarity about the future and peace of mind.
We are experienced mediators currently working towards EMIN accreditation in elder mediation (completion delayed until 2022 due to the pandemic). That means we are knowledgeable about the issues that can come with advancing age. We are familiar with the UK frameworks on safeguarding and on mental capacity. We abide by the EMIN code of ethics.
Always working as a pair, we have a professional but warm approach. We ensure that our mediation meetings are focussed and supportive, giving you the best chance of a swift, positive and lasting outcome.
You are very welcome to call us without obligation to discuss your situation. We won’t recommend mediation if we feel it is not appropriate.
A brief guide to mediation
The following may help you to decide whether and when to use elder mediation.
Elder mediation is a cost-effective way of reaching a decision, agreeing an action plan or resolving a dispute involving an older person. Trained elder mediators work to ensure that the voice of every participant is heard and respected. This can help to prevent or reduce the vulnerability of older people and their carers.
Mediation is not a legal process, nor is it counselling or therapy. But it does deal with human needs and emotions as well as practical matters. Most people who have used mediation say they would recommend it. They find it made a difference to have an expert, neutral third party involved.
Even if you have reached the point of considering a legal route to sort out a problem, it is worth trying mediation first. This is because it is a more constructive, quicker and far cheaper option. We can usually organise mediation quickly. It can improve or resolve things in one or two meetings, sometimes more if there are lots of issues or they are complex.
Elder mediation can address any issues of concern to or about older people. This includes for example:
- decisions about living, care or support arrangements
- concerns about autonomy or safety
- health care decisions
- end of life decisions
- handling financial or property decisions
- inter-generational relationships
- new relationships
- concerns about carers’ welfare
- Lasting Power of Attorney and Advance Care Planning (we don’t advise but are informed about these options to support participants’ discussions).
Mediation is suitable for situations involving two people or a group. All that is required is that those involved want to resolve the difficulties, and are willing to give mediation a try. We are familiar with the UK frameworks on safeguarding and on mental capacity.
Conflict is a natural part of life. People can often sort out problems amicably between themselves. But there will be times when that doesn’t work.
Perhaps the issue has recurred, escalated or reached a stalemate. There may be a breakdown of communication, or a number of people involved who need to be brought together. Or there may be difficulty agreeing a single person that everyone can trust or who has the skills to help sort things out.
These are the kinds of circumstances where an independent elder mediator is very helpful.
Mediation is at its most effective before things escalate or become entrenched. However, it can achieve progress even in long-standing conflicts.
Mediation is an informal process. The mediators take people through a step by step process to work out a mutually acceptable way forward.
- voluntary – so that everyone is there in good faith.
- confidential – enabling people to be open and get a clear understanding.
- impartial – so that everyone feels they are being treated fairly.
- neutral – so that participants trust that the mediator/s are not influenced by anyone else and have no ‘agenda’.
A skilled mediator:
- will listen, ask questions, challenge where necessary and identify areas of agreement/ disagreement. They will also ask for ideas, balance contributions, and maintain safety throughout.
- won’t force participation, take sides, make judgements, blame. They won’t offer suggestions, make decisions or force an agreement.
We design the process around the needs of participants including, for example, people with dementia. A typical process might be as follows:
- Enquiry/ referral. We consider the situation and its suitability for mediation, and the practicalities. If the enquirer/ referrer is a potential participant, we handle this stage with care to ensure we remain impartial.
- We contact each potential participant to see if and how they wish to get involved.
- Introductory meetings. First, we meet privately with each person. We explore the situation as they see it and what they want to achieve. We will not repeat anything we are told during this meeting to the other participants.
- Joint meeting(s). Then, if everyone agrees, participants come together in a structured meeting/s to discuss the issues and potential solutions. We keep the meeting manageable and constructive. We record points of agreement, including future actions.
- Post-mediation. After the meeting, we send the agreement to the participants. This is not a legal document but because everyone has helped to create it they tend to stick to it. (They can go on to make the agreement legally binding if everyone agrees.) Finally, we follow-up with the participants at agreed intervals to see how things are going.
The introductory meetings can take place either at people’s home (by video link is an option) or a suitable venue close by. Where possible, the joint mediation meeting takes place in a neutral venue. We can help with finding suitable venues.
Costs vary depending on circumstances eg the number of people involved. We will be able to estimate a fee at the outset. Our fees for a two-client case progressing to a single joint mediation start at £800 (£400/client); we don’t charge VAT. We request payment in stages so that you only pay for what you receive. Where needed, we will agree any additional venue costs with you as well as longer-distance travel.
We are experienced mediators with additional knowledge about issues faced by older people including those with dementia. We are in the process of gaining accreditation with EMIN to reflect this expertise. Unlike many other practices, we always mediate as a pair. We believe this give clients the best chance of a positive outcome, particularly where there are several people involved or the issues are complex.
Compare our fees to the costs of solicitors which are likely to be in excess of £200 per hour. Our factsheet on mediation may help you to weigh up your options.
Taking the first step
Those caught up in conflict are sometimes reluctant to try mediation. Perhaps it is because they feel things have gone too far or the other person won’t participate. Why not let us help with that? When people hear from someone neutral what mediation has to offer, they are often willing to give it a try. Please contact us to see whether we can help.