We hope this year is off to a good start for all of you and that you are staying warm in this arctic air. This is an important time of year for Talking Alternatives. Although it is the start of the calendar year, it is midway through the academic year and we hope we can intervene in situations where teens and parents have been having problems so they can successfully finish the school year in a more harmonious home atmosphere. Since timing can be crucial when resolving conflicts, we are anxious to get these cases now.
We had a vendor table at the Council of Senior Centers & Services of NYC 25th Annual Conference on Aging. We are always surprised when we attend these conferences and find how many of the other service providers are unaware of mediation for Elders and their Adult Children. However, we were surprised at this conference to find that one of our neighboring vendors had, in fact, not only heard of this type of mediation, but had experienced it. She and her 11 siblings were instructed by a judge in another state to attend mediation regarding the care of her aging parents. She credits mediation with resolving their problems without serious damage to the sibling relationships, or as she put it, it saved them from ‘killing each other’. She offered an enthusiastic endorsement of Elder mediation. These conferences are always a learning experience for us.
Talking Alternatives on Air
On January 31, Gail H. Goodman was interviewed by Paul Feiner, Town Supervisor of the Town of Greenburgh in Westchester County, NY. Talking Alternatives runs the Town of Greenburgh Community Mediation Program which provides early intervention for conflicts. The Town is the first in Westchester County to offer this innovative project to their community, encouraging residents to seek conflict resolution through mediation rather than resorting to courts or official agencies. We offer mediation for family disputes, landlord/tenant problems, small business cases and neighborhood ‘nuisance’ conflicts.
Caring for Aging Parents: Seems Like Everybody is Doing It
The Public Policy Institute reports on an alarming fact: as the numbers of Baby Boomers who require caregiving assistance rises, the ratio of potential family caregivers is falling. Whereas family has accounted for the majority of caregiviers, the pool of potential family caregivers is declining, increasing the reliance on fewer people and making it necessary to find supportive services elsewhere.The Caregiver Support ratio is defined as the number of family members who are potential caregivers (mostly adult children aged 45-64) for each parent over the age of 80. The ratio in 2010 was 7 potential caregivers for every at risk 80 year old. In 2030, that ratio is anticipated to go down to 4-1, and 3-1 shortly thereafter. The pressure on caregiving family members is already daunting.
Many adult children aged 45-64, are in the throes of their careers, taking care of their young children and leading busy lives. They are used to their parents being independent people, perhaps living in a retirement community in a warm weather state or still on their own in the family home. And then in one day, it all changes. It can be the sudden death of a parent, leaving the other parent to try and suddenly adjust to life on his or her own, or it can be the sudden accident that incapacitates a senior, such as a fall that results in a broken hip. Whatever the cause, it immediately puts those adult children into the role of caregiver, usually with different levels of involvement. And that is often where the problems begin. Articles in the AARP bulletin and The New York Times report on the increasing reliance on Elder and Adult Family Mediation to resolve the disagreements among family members on the plans for elders. With family members scattered geographically, the work often falls to the sibling living closest to the parent, or maybe there is a dependency on one child by the parent, but either case is ripe for tension among the siblings. Elder lawyers and geriatric care managers report on the difficulty of getting decisions made because of friction among the parties. Many sources working in the Eldercare area agree that mediation is a useful method of breaking the impasse, getting decisions made and finally getting things done.
In the upcoming months, we’ll be attending other events and reporting on some of our cases that might be of interest to all of you or perhaps, suggest solutions to problems you are grappling with.
Ruth Weinreb and Gail H. Goodman