Mediation is a process through which a third party neutral helps parties come to an agreement.
The mediator helps parties to uncover what is truly important to them, to understand where their interests overlap, to overcome communication barriers and where possible to create win-win situations. It is important to understand that, unlike our judicial system, mediation is a collaborative process.
While the parties initially may come to the table as adversaries, the goal of mediation is to solve a problem between the parties in a collaborative manner. The preferred outcome is an agreement that honors both parties’ vital interests to the largest extent possible.
The healthcare environment presents us with special set of circumstances and concerns. We encounter issues of life and death, health and illness, law and society, morality and science, technology and privacy, personality and competence to name just a few.
Not surprisingly, it is an area of life and society that is rich with potential sources of conflict. Conflicts arise between patients and individual healthcare providers, healthcare workers and their employers, between siblings caring for their parents, parents caring for their children, between healthcare workers, between injured workers or motorists and their insurance companies and countless other combinations of parties in conflict.
What typifies all these conflicts is that they tend to have very strong emotional component. These tend not to be conflicts that are primarily about money or the letter of the law; these are conflicts that touch the core of our being, our life, loved ones and what we stand for. In addition, these conflicts tend to involve important and ongoing relationships.
For these reasons, the court system is generally not the best venue to resolve these disputes. The courts have few tools to preserve relationships or to address the emotional aspects of the conflict. Mediation in contrast, empowers the parties to resolve issues according to their own values and interests, while offering the possibility of preserving or improving the integrity of the relationships.
As the number of elderly people in our society rapidly increases, so do the number of conflicts related to the care of our senior citizens.
Many families struggle with the logistics of balancing the concerns and interests of elderly family members, with the realities of geography, finances and health issues that may interfere with their independence.
Questions arise concerning the appropriate level of assistance, physical and mental capabilities, available and appropriate transportation, finances, family member involvement, end-of-life issues, and interactions with healthcare providers, nursing homes, attorneys and other resources.
While a good number of conflicts arise between the elderly and the organizations or providers that they do business with, it is often the family decision making process that is the cause of much strife. Old and changing family dynamics, finances, health concerns, and geographical separation often interfere with the ability to conduct a decision making process in which all parties’ concerns can be fully heard and taken into account.
The help of a mediator with knowledge and experience in geriatrics as well as outstanding mediation process skills is extremely valuable to come to timely and appropriate resolutions of the many problems that require a decision in these situations.