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As these issue play out, siblings watch a cherished parent decline or deal with loss—and a new industry is born.Rather than going to court, where a judge calls the shots, mediation is nonbinding and confidential, decisions are made by consensus, and attendance is voluntary."Undercurrents of family conflicts are driving some of the elder conflict even more than the immediate reason that they come to mediation." That "old stuff" can interfere with sound decision-making.Parental wishes Mom and Dad are typically less interested in what those decisions are than that their kids get along, maintain elder care experts."For the first time in history, adult siblings and their parents have to reengage intensively and long-term even though they have not lived in the same household for 30 or 40 years." You'd never know it, though."A lot of times, all that old stuff from eighth grade is still there," says Eileen Schaeffer, an elder law attorney and director of the elder mediation program at Montgomery Conflict Mediation Center in Eagleville, Pa.In some situations, an elder law attorney, financial planner, caregiver or geriatric care manager also attends to lend his or her expertise."Across the country, we're seeing private mediators, community mediation programs and court-based providers expanding their elder mediation services at a rate far beyond anything we've seen before," says Robert Rhudy, an attorney, mediator and president of the nonprofit Senior Mediation and Decision-Making Inc.
"Divorce mediation has become almost the norm in some states." Says Janet E.The fourth, in Texas, didn't see her mother enough to weigh in, and decided to defer to the others.Because Whyte, 49, lives closest and is her mother's primary caregiver, she believed she was in the best position to determine her capabilities and needs.Mitchell, an Indiana mediator and cofounder of Eldercaremediators.com: "When I tell people what I do, they always say, 'I could use your service or know someone who can.' " Two reasons: Age 85-plus is the largest-growing demographic group in the United States, and 19 million to 22 million children act as family caregivers.
"Most of our parents did not go through this caregiving and life passage the way we are, because they didn't live as long.
' They were always second-guessing me if I made decisions. It got to the point where we weren't talking to one another." New solutions to old problems At an impasse, the family turned to elder mediation.