According to Statistics Canada, the aging of Canada’s population will accelerate over the next two decades. Health care improvements have led to increased life expectancy and longer survival for the very elderly. It is estimated that by 2036, the percentage of the elderly in Canada’s population will increase to nearly 25%. Some 10 million Canadians will be seniors with a growing need for health and social programs.
Other ongoing changes to the Canadian population involve adult children living far away from their parents and, in many cases, a lower birthrate. Many of the very elderly are taken care by children who are themselves seniors. How to assist a parent who needs extra help at home or needs a change of residence can be a challenge for the whole family. Such decisions can be difficult to make and the process of making them can bring conflict that makes fruitful discussion a challenge.
Navigating the health care system can be an additional challenge. Different services may be difficult to find and often aren’t well co-ordinated. For a family dealing with a sudden change in the health and independence of a loved one, the confusion inherent in the medical system can be overwhelming.
In these situations, an elder mediator or an advocate can help.
As with other forms of mediation, elder mediation is a process in which an objective third party helps participants meet and communicate in a way that facilitates decision-making and long-term planning. It can create support for an older person facing changes to their physical or mental health, as well as his or her primary caregiver, improving the quality of life of both and preventing abuse and conflict later on. It can prepare family members for the changes their loved ones will be going through. It can encourage the creation of a plan for future needs, such as medical directives, powers of attorney, and estate planning.
Elder mediators receive specialized training that enables them to recognize intergenerational conflict, legal concerns, and possible health problems. Elder mediators do not make decisions for the parties or offer legal or medical advice, but they are aware of services in the community that might be useful for the participants in the mediation.
Unlike other forms of mediation, there is a strong focus on bringing elder mediators onto the scene long before there is conflict or a step towards litigation, though elder mediation can also be effective after such conflicts have developed.
¨ The Elder Mediator is contacted:
¨ There is a brief consultation to determine the nature of issues involved and who will participate.
¨ Following the consultation the mediator contacts each participant.
¨ Date/location is set. (Skyping may be possible to accommodate participants who live long distances.)
¨ The number of meetings will be determined by the complexity of the issues.
An elder advocate assists an older person and their family in using the health care and long-term housing systems. This may involve helping the family fill out the right documents, find the right professionals, and ask the right questions. An advocate is familiar with the local health care and long-term housing resources, as well as other senior services. Advocates do not provide legal advice.
Not all members of the Elder Mediation and Advocacy Group provide both mediation and advocacy services. Part of the hiring process involves clearly defining the professional’s role and the family’s expectations.
To provide a resource to those seeking elder mediation and elder advocacy services.
Facilitating the resolution of family, health and related concerns in a timely manner, promoting wellness, developing prevention strategies, and enhancing quality of life.
To focus on addressing concerns and issues for the elderly, while maintaining and strengthening the myriad of relationships critical to their well-being.
To assist elder patients and consumers of government services in navigating the bureaucracy of large health plans and government provided services, including the provision where necessary of transition assistance to elderly persons moving into assisted living and nursing homes.
To provide a support network for elder mediators and others working in the field.
To provide a resource relating to services which may be available to those who seek our help.
The Mediation Centre of Southeastern Ontario’s roster of elder mediators and advocates have received elder mediation and related training, are insured, and adhere to the Code of Professional Conduct for Mediators Specialising in Issues of Ageing. The members of the Elder Mediation and Advocacy Group reside in a number of locations in the region, and actually beyond it. Services can therefore be provided in a range of locations. Details of the locations of members of the roster are provided below.
THE MCSO ELDER MEDIATION AND ADVOCACY GROUP
Kingston and Region
Belleville, Napanee, Picton, Prince Edward County