One area of law that triggers a great deal of conflict is caring for an elderly parent or grandparent. Subtle conflict between siblings and family members that may have been brewing in the background for many years can raise its ugly head when the family is put in a position of caring for an elder who at one time was independent and vibrant, but now relies on the care of others. This type of situation tests the family's resolve to work together and put aside past grievances. Some families do this well, while others need help.
One avenue for resolving these types of “eldercare” issues is guardianship mediation. Guardianship mediation is like general mediation; however, it is sensitive to the fact that the discussion involves an elderly person who may have diminished mental capacity and may not be fully aware of the issues. In this type of case, the elder needs some form of representation to make sure their best interests are protected. A knowledgeable, ethical mediator will make sure the elder has an advocate looking out for her best interest.
In my experience over the years, the conflict usually involves control issues between the siblings. For instance, who will manage the finances, who decides where mom or dad should live, who will do the shopping and cooking, and those types of things. And where there is no Power of Attorney or Living Will in place, the parties are left trying to decide these issues themselves with little guidance from the elder. A fertile environment for great conflict!
If you find yourself in this type of situation, consider having your family meet with a mediator who can facilitate an open discussion with the entire family to help develop a care plan that makes sense for everyone. An experienced guardianship mediator will be sensitive to the family dynamics as well as the fact that the elder may have some level of diminished mental capacity that needs to be addressed in some fashion. Such an approach will help avoid a great deal of unpleasant conflict, as well as save the family a great deal of money.