My presentation on Elder Mediation last week at VNA Community Healthcare in Guilford was a pleasure. The room was full of professionals who work with elderly people on a daily basis. Their dedication was plain to see, not the least because they attended to learn still more about how they could serve their clients even better. The collective wisdom in the room was wide and deep, which made for a lively and interactive program.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things to me was a comment made by a non-participant. At the beginning we talked about how very common conflict is as families struggle to deal with keep aging loved ones safe, happy, and well cared for, while preserving independence and dignity. Everyone there dealt with challenging conflicts and disputes among family members on a regular basis, whether formally or informally.
It was a bit of a shock when the group heard that someone who is not in this field and has not dealt with these issues personally was surprised to hear that it is common for families to face conflict over all the issues that elder mediation touches on.
Here, I think, lies one of the challenges for elder mediation: when a family finds itself in conflict, it thinks that such problems are unusual and that mediation would never be an option for most families because they never experienced conflict. So, the family that is struggling with decisions about difficult topics also struggles with its own perceptions of itself as an unusual or somehow “bad” family.