Exploring the Role of Elder Mediation in the Prevention of Elder Abuse

Preamble

Aging of Canada's population will accelerate over the next three decades (Stats Canada 2006). Women are still living longer than men especially in the older age groups. In 2005, women accounted for 75% of the "over 90" age group, and 75% of the elderly poor. Presently, the majority of caregivers are women, as are the majority of people with cognitive impairments and dementias. Health care improvements have led to increased life expectancy and longer survival for the very elderly, often with functional deficits (Stats Canada 2006). It is within this context that the practice of elder mediation holds promise for its potential to reduce the incidence of elder abuse and neglect in our society. Participants in elder mediation often report feeling surprised they can have such candid conversations with family members. A realistic aim in elder mediation is to assist people to become skilled at resolving or preventing conflicts, ultimately creating better futures.

The scope of this preliminary report is to convey information available on the use of elder mediation involving seniors (outside the criminal justice system) and some models used (or proposed) within Canada and internationally. The report shares information gleaned from Canada, United States, Ireland, Switzerland, England and Australia. In particular, the report reviews these varied sources of information in order to determine what information is available on the use of elder mediation in potential situations of family conflict involving a senior.

This preliminary work will demonstrate how elder mediation can be a means to address many age related issues including suspected elder abuse and neglect. It can be a tool to catch aggravated conflict and often reduce the likelihood of the conflict spiraling into abuse. It will identify, within the models currently being used or those suggested, a few of the legal, ethical and professional training issues related to using elder mediation in situations of family conflict involving a senior. Also included is a list of research sources found in the area of elder mediation, and information on existing mediation models including models used in cases of elder abuse and neglect.

As part of the information gathering process with a limited turnaround time, a request was sent out to numerous elder mediators throughout the Elder Mediation International Network. The request was for information, both in Canada and internationally, on the various models used in elder mediation with particular interest in those situations where neglect or abuse is specifically alleged or suspected. Research was undertaken with respect to ideas and articles that might demonstrate how mediation with age related issues is, or potentially could be, a valuable service for families. Comments or knowledge of literature that addresses—within the models identified—legal, ethical and professional training issues related to using elder mediation, were welcomed. The request also looked for comments on the following:

  • strengths and weaknesses of any of the models
  • terminology—terms that describe the practice of elder mediation/mediation with age related issues
  • issues and terms that describe mediation in situations of family conflict involving a senior
  • a sense of how prevalent or widespread is the practice of "elder mediation"—by whatever name or term is used to describe it.
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