Judy Beranger MA, is the president of Family Mediation Canada. Drawing on her expertise as a recognized leader in the field, we had a conversation about the practice of Elder Mediation.

It can sometimes be difficult recognizing and navigating family conflicts. One option for people facing these challenges with older people is mediation, specifically Elder Mediation. Elder Mediation can be useful in scenarios where families are managing a variety of age-related issues, such as:

  • Care for the caregiver
  • Safety issues, including abuse and neglect
  • Family disagreements, ranging from religious differences to arguments over family assets
  • Financial decisions
  • Medical conditions, including progressive dementia and other memory impairments, and medical decisions
  • Major life changes, including retirement, blended family situations and changes in living arrangements, and major life or end of life decisions, including power of attorney, guardianship, estate planning, etc.

As conflicts become more complex, coming to a mutual understanding or agreement may sometimes seem impossible. And yet, if a resolution is not reached, this can cause aggravated issues.

Elder Mediation involves a neutral, trained mediator who facilitates focused conversations among participants, working towards conflict prevention and resolution. Participants experience firsthand how the process can prevent the delays, stress and financial burdens of standard court trials.

The preventive component of the practice works when people know about mediation and are referred early enough. In these instances, conflict can be minimised or avoided altogether.

Early and voluntary mediation can be especially impactful in response to cases of financial abuse. While there is no comparable Canadian data, one Australian study reported 59 per cent of its participants found that mediation had assisted in preventing or stopping the abuse.

The benefits of Elder Mediation

Based on a person-centred wellness model, Elder Mediation aims to be mindful of the older person(s), while respecting the rights of each person participating. Each person is recognized as having his or her own narrative, intrinsic value, and strengths and weaknesses. As such, this process works especially well for those struggling with communication as these individuals may take away better methods of communicating from the experience.

Another strength of Elder Mediation is that it is not limited in the voices it can invite to the table, or the conversations that can be had. And as more voices enter into the conversation, that is more people to help with the situation at hand.

Elder Mediation can be especially beneficial in circumstances where an older adult, or someone in their life, feels hesitant to step forward or label behaviour as abuse, for any reason. In those instances, a mediator can assist by creating a space where the participants can talk about the reality of the situation.

It should be noted that if a mediator determines a situation to be serious, they can take actions to protect the safety of those involved. This might mean reporting any perceived threats to the appropriate authorities.

Expanding the practice’s reach

As it stands, Elder Mediation is underutilised. In advancing it, there needs to be both interest in the practice and comprehension of what it actually entails. There also needs to be more interaction between, law, healthcare, social services, etc., to promote Elder Mediation as a means of responding to family conflicts.

Interest in Elder Mediation seems to be growing, nationally and internationally, with several projects outside of Canada that either promote or utilise Elder Mediation, as well as both national and international conferences on the topic.

In May 2023, a national conference was held by Family Mediation Canada, giving participants an opportunity to learn more about the field and how to get involved. The 11th World Summit on Elder Mediation is set to take place on November 8 and 9, 2023. The Summit will convene experts from around the world, and aims to draw in people from all professions, along with volunteers, family members, students, ect., to learn about and discuss a variety of age-related issues.

Considering mediation

As our population continues to age, and the demographic of older adults gets larger, elder mediation becomes more relevant to all Canadians, but it is important to do your research and remember the following:

  1. When considering mediation, it’s important to ask for information about the mediator’s training and experience. Mediators come from many different backgrounds, but it is important that they have specialised training and experience on the specific topic. Some topics also require further training; an example of this is guardianship mediation.
  2. When mentioning mediation to potential voluntary participants, it can be useful to share resources, answer questions, communicate openly and not force the issue.
  3. When looking for a mediator, Family Mediation Canada has a section to search mediators based on location, credentials, languages spoken and issues mediated.






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