Content taken from Mediate.com and edited by Papa & Roberts, PLLC
As families confront the decisions involved in how to best care for a loved one who no longer is able to live alone, who requires assistance with daily living, or requires medical care, family relationships become increasingly strained. According to mediation trainer Susan Butterwick, Esq, Directing Attorney for caregiver mediation projects for the Center for Social Gerontology, "this is one of the most difficult dilemmas our society, families, caregivers and elders face. Families often find themselves on opposing sides in a courtroom involved in contested litigation over how best to care for a loved one."
Indeed, today family conflict is not uncommon, especially when care needs are great. What mediation means, how the parties in the mediation process resolve conflict, the value of mediation will be presented.
Mediation has been recognized in Ohio for over twenty years. It is an informal, confidential process held in a private setting in which a neutral third party (mediator) helps people to better understand his/her individual interests and needs and develop and agree upon a workable solution to their problem(s).
Mediation is different than other alternative dispute resolution processes in the following ways: Usually, a negotiation involves opposing parties without a neutral third party. Arbitration uses a neutral third party who actually makes the decision on how to resolve the conflict. Litigation is far more expensive and time-consuming than mediation and involves a judge who makes the final decisions. According to Butterwick, in litigation and arbitration, there is usually a "WINNER" and a "LOSER." In mediation, however, the goal is for opposing parties to work toward a "win-win" solution; the mediator has no decision-making role in the mediation process. Mediation may be voluntary or court ordered. Butterwick adds, "if it (mediation) is court ordered, the parties are ordered only to show up for the mediation and the rest of the process is voluntary". It is confidential in either case.
The mediation process has several advantages. A main advantage is that the parties retain control over the decision(s) they choose to agree to in writing. Also, results are generally win-win because outcomes fit the needs and interests of the opposing individuals. Because the outcomes also reflect the parties' choices and priorities, in turn, there is a higher level of compliance (80-85%) with the written agreement than with court judgments which according to Butterwick is much lower.
The beauty of mediation is that individuals are validated and empowered by the process. The way one sees a problem is deemed as equally important as the other's view. The same is true for the options offered for resolving the problem. Anxiety may decrease as the opposing parties are treated and communicated with, in a compassionate, courteous, respectful manner. Another plus is that the groundwork is laid for improving the overall relationship as parties work out their differences with the help of a neutral third party.
Mediators can be court staff, volunteers at mediation centers, attorneys and private practice mediators. Fees vary widely (see www.mediate.com.) Topics of disputes are numerous. Some include business, contract, landlord/tenant, property damage, neighbor issues, domestic violence, discrimination and other workplace issues, intellectual property, real estate, personal injury, malpractice, victim- offender, civil rights, special education, divorce, child protection, family issues, and adult guardianship.
According to Butterwick, family caregiver mediation is a relatively new outgrowth of adult guardianship mediation, currently being explored and implemented by The Center For Social Gerontology who has found the need for mediating effective solutions to address problems that arise in family caregiver situations is significant.