July 29, 2010
Mediators Help Families With Tough Choices Of Aging
They are disputes that can split apart families: Mom’s left a pot on the stove again, so her daughters want her to give up her house. Dad’s got more scrapes on his car, so his kids want to take away the car keys. Now there’s a new option for families: Call in an elder mediator, like Rikk Larsen.
Larsen comes in as a neutral third party to help families negotiate difficult situations and choices.
He talks about one case where an elderly father was getting forgetful and wasn’t paying his monthly bills. His children — who lived far away — found out when the father’s heat and electricity were turned off. But the elderly man got angry when the kids tried to help.
“Dad simply didn’t want any of his kids to know how much money he had and how his finances were organized,” says Larsen, and things were getting worse. One son insisted on going to court to get his father declared mentally incompetent, so the family could take control of the father’s finances.
But after Larsen mediated, the brothers and sisters — along with the father — came up with a simpler solution. The father’s accountant sent an assistant every couple of weeks to help the elderly man pay his bills.
“It became this kind of business meeting that the father had, and he got to maintain his dignity and his sense of control, and the bills got paid,” Larsen says.