As our parents age, the responsibility often falls to the children to help care for them when they can no longer take care of themselves.  Sometimes this involves simply checking in on them, scooping snow from their walks or mowing their lawn and other times it can involve helping them with daily living tasks or even helping them make the decision to move from their homes into a retirement community.

If more than one sibling is involved in the decision making process, problems can sometimes occur if decisions cannot be made by the senior him or herself.  Siblings may have different ideas on what’s best for mom or dad and this can often cause family strife as well as delay decisions that need to be made in the parent’s best interest.  In these cases, Elder Mediation may be the solution.

Elder Mediation is a specialized mediation process designed to help create consensus about the futures between parents and siblings. Typical Elder Mediation is called for when there are disputes involving the following parental issues:  health, living arrangements, mobility, medical care, and estate issues. Unresolved or poorly resolved issues can divide siblings and fragment families – and this at a time when Mom and/or Dad are seeking to wrap up their lives with as much peace and harmony as possible.

The process involves individual separate pre-sessions with all stakeholders to ensure each person understanding the process and having their individual perspective heard and understood. Then a full session is scheduled. Parties can speak their mind in a safe and somewhat controlled environment in which conflict and emotions are kept at a minimum. The goal is not a democratic vote in which the majority gets its way; the goal is consensus – finding solutions that all parties can support and work together toward implementation of the solution.

Parties are typically charged individually and separately for the individual pre-sessions as well as the full session.  If consensus is reached, the agreement is drafted in session and signed by all parties, and, if necessary, sent on the party attorneys.

If the decision is made to move Mom or Dad into a senior living community, there are many benefits to such a move.  Kristina Krumme and Tracy Marcisnki with Elk Ridge Senior Living have seen many examples of a senior’s life improving after moving to a senior living community.  “They get better nutrition, less depression due to socialization and having to get up and dressed in the morning and better health because their meds are handled by a professional,” they explain.  “In addition, they are much safer because there is always someone around to help and less anxiety due to not worrying about health, medicine, home maintenance and other issues.”

When deciding which senior living community to help their parent or parents choose, children of seniors should seek out a couple of communities that are a good fit before taking their parents on a tour.  “We always let them know they will feel better knowing their parents are safe,” say Kristina Krumme and Tracy Marcisnki.  “We let them know they are doing it for their parents and shouldn’t feel guilty.”  They also suggest getting their doctor involved to tell the parent or parents the benefits of living in a community setting and having a game plan for the move, sale of the home and how to downsize to make it work.

Kristina and Tracy are finding that many people are staying in their homes too long and seeking out help when it may already be too late.  “There are so many wonderful choices with wonderful benefits for seniors,” they say.  “From independent communities to skilled communities, the Omaha metro area has so much to offer for seniors.”

Technology for Seniors

Many seniors, whether they are still at home or living in a retirement community, could benefit from becoming more technology-savvy.  Computers are a wonderful way to stay in touch with friends and family, especially if they are not local, but many seniors are uncomfortable with using them because they aren’t sure how.  Help out your senior loved one by setting them up with classes to learn more about computers.

David M. Cohen, Ph.D., educator and researcher, offers one-to-one lessons on using Apple (Mac) or Windows personal computers.  The curriculum is determined individually for each student.  Some people he teaches want to learn how to send and receive mail and attachments while others want others want more advanced instruction on the many programs available, such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint.  A favorite subject is SKYPE, which is a free tool providing video-conferencing:  you can see and hear your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, etc. at no cost on the computer.  Most young people are familiar with this program, as well as Facebook, a program for sharing and communicating that is especially popular among family members, but many seniors have never even heard of it and learning this tool could help them connect socially and with family.

Help your senior lived one live life to its full potential!  Work with your siblings to find the best living situation for them and help them learn skills that can improve their lives so they may live their golden years to the fullest!