Even if they are experiencing physical or mental decline due to their age, every individual deserves to have the opportunity to participate in decisions that affect their lives. Unfortunately, sometimes people they love may not agree with their plans and desires. When family members cannot agree on how to help a loved one as they age, the situation can grow quite tense. When the senior wants to maintain independence and autonomy, but adult children disagree about their care, finances, and decision-making ability, fighting can lead to legal battles. Although these topics can be emotional and stressful to confront, families should never forget that at the heart of their controversy is a person they love. Eldercaring coordination may provide a solution.
Eldercaring coordination is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process that is gaining popularity for a good reason. The approach brings together the aging senior, their legally authorized decision-makers, and other family members or interested parties to resolve their dispute without the undue stress and expense of a court battle.
What Exactly is Eldercaring Coordination?
Eldercaring coordination helps elders, legally authorized decision-makers, and others to resolve disagreements with elevated levels of conflict. Participants in the process may respond to a court order or be invited by someone else in the case. The eldercaring coordination process:
- Facilitates more effective communication, negotiation, and problem-solving;
- Provides information about senior care resources;
- Supports the development and implementation of an eldercaring strategy;
- Offers recommendations for conflict resolution; and
- Enables decisions to be made within the scope of a court order (or with the relevant parties’ prior approval.)
An eldercaring coordinator is an impartial third party responsible for facilitating dispute resolution in a way that respects the senior’s need for autonomy and safety. The coordinator is required to have undergone extensive training specific to this process. Unless a written agreement stipulates a chosen professional, the court may name a qualified Eldercaring Coordinator.
How Long Does the Eldercaring Coordination Process Take?
The judge typically appoints the EC to help the family for two years – and families should not expect all conflicts to be resolved in one meeting. Even if problems and disagreements are settled quickly, the two-year term allows the EC’s proximity to the family to be a non-legal resource should subsequent issues arise. The EC remains available through all developing transitions as seniors age, preventing current or future court hearings. This way, families can prevent delays, minimize ongoing contention, understand available resources, and strengthen their family support system. While the EC is present for times of stress and disagreement, they also monitor progress through periods of calm.
What are the Qualifications of an Eldercaring Coordinator?
According to the Association for Conflict Resolution Guidelines for Eldercaring Coordination, Eldercaring Coordinators (ECs) must be licensed or certified by a regulatory body and have earned at least a master’s degree. They also must meet requirements for all of the following:
- Completion of family mediation training
- Completion of elder mediation training
- Completion of eldercaring coordination training
- Extensive practical experience dealing with high conflict within families
In addition, any person endeavoring to be an Eldercaring Coordinator must be cognitively and psychologically capable of performing the EC role; and have no condition, disorder, or impairment that prevents the role’s effective, responsible, and ethical exercise.
By the very nature of the process, families referred to eldercaring coordination are high-conflict and cannot work well together. Training and experience with these intense family dynamics are essential job qualifications, as is expertise in working with elders. Denise Schonwald is a nationally certified mental health professional with experience in numerous disciplines, including anger management and family therapy. She is a certified Eldercaring Coordinator living and working in the Sarasota, Florida area.