American Hero or Mental Incapacity?

This past summer Buzz Aldrin’s children sued him in order to gain guardianship and decision -making authority over their father’s health, safety and welfare.  The children acted and moved for guardianship because of their father’s increased memory loss and confusion.  Mr. Aldrin counter-sued his children seeking to keep his independence.  Litigation had a devastating impact on the family.  The court ordered medical testing, and in the end declared that Mr. Aldrin had all his faculties and powers in place and can act on his behalf.

Do you have to have walked on the moon to have a court declare your independence? Do you need a court involved at all in making decisions that are at the core of a family’s well-being? If a family is in dispute what can they do as an alternative to a litigated solution.  Elder mediators provide families an option.

An elder mediator develops a collaborative approach to resolving the dispute. The mediator following the interests of each family member defines the key concerns and interests expressed by all parties. If the Aldrin family had requested services of an elder mediator, could an independent medical evaluation still have been conducted.

The difficult conversation in this hypothetical is what if the medical evaluation determined that Mr. Aldrin was not fit to manage his estate, business and key decision making?  What if Mr. Aldrin refused to adhere to the recommendations from the evaluation?

In establishing the process, the mediator will develop an agreement outlining the process.  Presuming Mr. Aldrin signed the agreement, was advised by his personal attorney that it was a fair procedure and one that would track to any court procedure, would be less costly, less adversarial and maintain some degree of peace within the family – why not give elder mediation a try in such a circumstance?


Family Foundation Disputes

The head of the family has been diagnosed with early onset dementia. The foundation and trust agreements have a provision that if any one of the principals of the trust is not capable of serving, the remaining principals may vote for removal. When you are removing your mother, father, sibling or a loved one from the foundation’s leadership, you are challenging the very fabric that has held your life in place.  Children often feel guilty, timid, and uncertain if they are making the right decision.  A strong patriarch or matriarch often makes it even more challenging if they are in denial or avoiding the reality of their physical/mental condition.  What are the options when the dynamic has one group faced with the hardest decision of their life, while another do not believe the issue to be ‘that bad’. All family members have the best interests of the foundation at heart and face a most difficult decision.

It is quite understandable that a closely-knit family may not want to include an outside mediator into the fold. It is also understandable that the parties are aware of the consequences of non-action! Is the health, safety, and security of the family threatened by this situation. Is non-action a viable alternative? If the family is divided now, what is going to change after a serious event occurs, or does the event just exacerbate the differences?

A skilled elder mediator is going to begin to build trust and understanding between all the family members.  The mediator will work with the family members to understand why they believe what they do. When the other family members begin to understand and listen with assistance from the mediator the family can begin to work together to meet everyone’s underlying needs.

The classic example in an elder mediation where the parent does not want to stop driving and one child understands how dire it is for their parent to maintain independence in life and another believes that the parent is unfit to be on the road – how does the family resolve this simple but yet perplexing situation?  The mediator will work with the family members to begin exploring options for resolution – maybe have an evaluation by Department of Motor Vehicles performed, or a doctor’s assessment. When the family members agree about approach and the desired outcome, communicating with the elder is going to stand a greater probability of success.