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, friends, care managers, health professionals, social workers.
Just as you call on experts to help with many of life’s other problems – from home maintenance to health – elder mediators offer a set of skills which support you to deal well with these situations.
Mediation enables everyone to express what they need and hear from others. We take care to address the needs of everyone in the room to ensure the best possible outcome. It is a tried and tested, confidential process.
You stand to gain understanding, clarity about the future and peace of mind. Elder mediation can help you come to a shared decision, agree a joint plan, or to re-set or re-build relationships.
As experienced mediators currently working towards EMIN accreditation in elder mediation (completion delayed until the end of 2021 due to the pandemic) we are knowledgeable about the issues that can come with advancing age. 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.
A brief guide to mediation
The following may help you to decide whether and when to use elder mediation.
You are very welcome to call us without obligation to discuss your situation. We are enthusiastic advocates of mediation but we won’t mediate if we feel it is not appropriate.
Elder mediation is a cost-effective way of reaching a decision, agreeing an action plan or resolving a dispute involving an older person. The process aims to ensure that the voice of every participant is heard and respected. It can help to prevent or reduce the vulnerability of older people or 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 practicalities. After mediation, many people comment on the helpfulness of someone neutral enabling people to listen and be heard, and to look to the future.
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. Mediation can often be organised quickly. It can improve or resolve things in one or two meetings, sometimes more if there are lots of issues or they are complex.
Any issues of concern to or about older people, including 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, are willing to give mediation a try, and are able to make decisions for themselves.
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.
Its underlying principles help to give participants confidence in it. Mediation is:
- voluntary – so that everyone is there in good faith
- confidential – enabling openness and insight
- impartial – so that participants feel they are being treated fairly
- neutral – so that participants trust that the mediator/s are not influenced by anyone else and have no preferred outcome.
A skilled mediator:
- will listen, ask questions, challenge where necessary, identify areas of agreement/ disagreement, ask for ideas, balance contributions, and maintain safety throughout.
- won’t force participation, take sides, make judgements, apportion blame, offer suggestions, make decisions, force an agreement.
Mediation can be designed around the needs of participants including, for example, people with dementia. A typical process might be as follows:
- Referral. We consider the situation and its suitability for mediation, and the logistics. If the referrer is a potential participant in mediation, we handle this stage with due care to ensure we remain impartial.
- We contact each potential participant to see if and how they wish to get involved.
- Introductory meetings: the mediators meet privately with each participant first to explore the situation as they see it and what they want to achieve. They will not repeat anything they are told during this meeting to the other participants without their permission.
- Joint mediation meeting(s): then everyone comes together in a carefully structured meeting/s to discuss the issues and potential solutions. The mediators keep things manageable and constructive. They record any points of agreement that the participants reach, 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. 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 £530 (£265/client); we don’t charge VAT. That covers set-up, 4 hours mediating time, and follow-up. We request payment in stages so that you only pay for what you receive. Where there are venue fees we charge these at cost, as well as longer-distance travel.
We are experienced mediators with additional knowledge about mediations involving elders. We are in the process of gaining accreditation with EMIN to reflect this expertise. Unlike many other practices, we always mediate in a pair. We believe this give clients the best chance of a positive outcome, particularly where there are more than two parties or the issues are complex.
Compare our fees to the costs of solicitors which are likely to be in excess of £200/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 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.