I have to say that in our work we generally do not see this; however this lovely article shows one man stepping up to the plate and being a part time caregiver to his mother-in-law!
According to the article – The Alzheimer Association says men now make up 40% of family caregivers now – up from 19% measured in 1996.
his may seem out of the norm, but trust me it is not. I have seen people go through great lengths to get what they feel entitled to. This would have been a great case for us. We could have addressed the heart of the matter and help this family move forward without all of this unnecessary drama and heart break. Old age does not equate incompetence and many children feel entitled to plan their parents future. On the other hand, many seniors are in a standstill and refuse to accept their own limitations and plan accordingly. This also results in disastrous consequences. This is as we have said all along, no one ever says, “I want to spend my golden years in a nursing home”.
Ultimately, we may think we know the son’s intentions. They appear to be motivated by greed, but perhaps this is his way to strong arm his mother into the realization that she cannot live alone. This is a sad example of letting the situation spiral out of control. At this point, the stress of the situation could end up killing the mother and no amount of money could repair the rift in the family that would cause or the guilt this son will feel. There is always more than meets eye and resolving this conflict in a more dignified way would have lead to a better result for all parties involved.
High conflict mediations present with very high emotion coupled with blaming accusations and little self-awareness or interest in listening. Divorce, employment situations, elder mediation, even business situations are all examples of high conflict mediations.
Working with high conflict people requires skill that goes well beyond facilitating a conversation or simply caucusing the parties. We have learned that these situations require tighter management of the process itself. People in high conflict have lost their ability to self manage and by designing a process with more structure and more rules, there is a far better chance of causing self-management to occur. Furthermore, the tight process calms people down which gives them a chance to listen not only to the other side but to the mediator. And if they have a good mediator he/she is most likely reframing the problem or offering creative or unique ways to see and solve the problem.
Parents – if this sounds like you dealing with an unruly child, that’s because the same techniques are used. Honestly speaking, people in high conflict can be like little kids who are out of control. What do we do with those kids? We make their world smaller and tighter – with more rules. That gives the child a sense of security because the boundaries are clear. We do the same thing with high conflict people in mediation. When we tighten the boundaries – keeping them clear and holding the parties to them – we see the parties able to move forward because they are secure in understanding the process and not feeling like they will either not be heard, talked over, or taken advantage of. They see that we as the Mediators – with a capital M – are in control and it builds trust and confidence in the process.
Not all high conflict situations can be brought to the mediation table. Good mediators know when to say no – especially where it is clear that one or both parties are intentionally unwilling to work with the other. That is an entirely different situation than simply being “convinced” in your own mind that nothing can be done. We hear a lot of the latter situation and people are then amazed at what happens during the process.
Read Ann Begler’s article, High Conflict and Ethics from which this post was developed.
How many of us have adult sibling relationships that we sort of tolerate or have maybe even swept under the rug. What happens when your parents age and maybe even die and you have to make some important decisions with that sibling? Even with the best of relationships, these kinds of decisions bring out old hurts but when there are entrenched negative feelings or long-standing feuds, coming together at these times to discuss whether dad should still be driving or mom cannot live alone quickly brings back up these difficult feelings.
Elder mediation is a fast growing field and one that all baby-boomers should be thinking about. It will save you time, stress and money to engage one of these professionals right out of the gate. Your communication will be more focused with a built in referee and you will all stay on point when it comes to making necessary decisions.
Read this article from Slate Magazine that highlights the benefits of Elder Mediation. Additionally, and here comes a spoiler-alert! – right after these two siblings finally came together and not only made an important decision about mom but also came to a new understanding with one another – one of them died unexpectedly. That mediation is forever seared into the other sibling’s mind as the vehicle that brought them together. It took guts for them to make the choice to do it – but the payoff was HUGE in more ways than one.
This story comes from my friend and colleague Brooke Deratany Goldfarb. Brooke has a law degree from Harvard but rather than use her degree in the traditional sense she has chosen to practice as a family mediator and collaborative lawyer in Indialantic, FL. You can learn more about Brooke and her unique practice – Peaceful Beach Mediation.
Cat, Rabbit, and Fox were living in a forest. Cat and Rabbit started fighting over a piece of delicious cheese they had found in the forest. Rabbit broke the cheese into two pieces. Cat grabbed the larger piece for himself, announcing, “This piece is mine.”
Rabbit, of course, had to disagree, “No it isn’t, it is mine!”
Just then, Cat saw Fox walk by and called to him, “Mr. Fox, we have two pieces of cheese and I want the bigger piece, shouldn’t it be mine?”
Rabbit interjected protesting, “That’s not fair, I want the bigger piece, it should be mine!”
“I will solve this problem,” said Fox, “I will bite the bigger piece so that both pieces will be the same, “ and with that, Fox took a bite out of the bigger piece of cheese.
“But now the other piece is bigger!” complained Cat.
“No worries,” said Fox, “I will now take a bite out of the other piece.”
“But now the first piece is bigger, no fair!” cried Rabbit.
“Never fear, I will solve this problem for you,” said Fox. This process continued as Cat or Rabbit each time complained about how much cheese should be his or hers and with Fox taking bite after bite until finally, all the cheese was safely in Fox’s tummy. “Mmmm, that sure was good cheese, too bad you two lost your chance to have some.”
Cat started to whine, “But all the cheese is gone now!”
Fox grinned, “So it is. But at least the pieces are the same size,” and with that Fox ran off.
“But which piece was mine?” asked Rabbit in a daze.
“I guess it doesn’t matter now,” said Cat wistfully, “they are both gone, and now we don’t have any cheese at all.”
Only then Cat and Rabbit realized, “I guess we should have solved our problem ourselves.”
Brooke witnessed the saga of Cat, Rabbit and Fox as a short play in her daughter’s theater class. She sent it to me with a note explaining that the tale struck her as “an illustration of the fall out of the litigated divorce with the loss of cheese signifying the loss of, among other things, the dignity of the participants.”
Thank you Brooke!!
This post was picked up from a blog post by Elinor Robin, PhD – a wonderful woman who has dedicated her life to conflict resolution. Check her out here.
Brenda Baietto featured in the new book: