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How to Choose an Elder Mediator

Here's the best way to find someone to help your family navigate thorny caregiving issues

2. You need to search diligently. Try to get a referral from a loved one or trusted adviser. If you can't, be sure to do a careful search — for one thing, the person you choose is going to see a lot of your family's dirty linen.

Interview at least three candidates and get references. Barbara Kate Repa, a mediator and senior editor with Caring.com, suggests some questions to ask: "What training and experience have you had in mediation? How much experience do you have in mediating disputes similar to mine? What are your goals in mediation? How much do your services cost — what's included and what's not?"

You'll want to know, too, if the candidate is a member of the state's professional mediator organization and whether the person trains or teaches others, adds Carolyn Rodis, a mediator with Rodis & Henick.

3. Take your time. "It can be tempting to jump right in and hire someone, especially if a situation is reaching critical mass, but failing to check references or do your due diligence could lead to more problems down the road," says Marion Somers, author of Elder Care Made Easier: Ten Steps to Help You Care for An Aging Loved One.

4. Consider the parent's interests too. Look for a mediator who will advocate for the elder's interests, as well as for family harmony. "I worry about mediators who think that the children are in charge and are the client," says James Goodwin, director of the Sealy Center on Aging at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. "The elderly individual is always in charge."

For more information, try these websites: www.Mediate.com, www.acrelder.org, www.nafcm.org, www.tcsg.org/med.htm, www.senior-mediation.org.

You may also like: 8 rules for new caregivers.

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