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It's All Relative: Siblings

January 22, 2011

How to find an elder-care mediator

-- Mediation involves the use of a neutral party to help families resolve disputes. Sometimes mediators are called in by a judge's order, but many elder-care experts say mediation can be helpful long before a dispute makes its way to court. The key is finding a mediator who will help ease communication among family members.

--Mediators are often attorneys or social service workers, but clergy or other experienced listeners can help guide conversations.

--A key is to find someone "who prompts you to say things in the most constructive way and avoid saying things that are mean-spirited," says Deborah Gentry, an Illinois educator and elder-care mediation expert.

--Costs range from free, if using a social service worker or clergy member, to hundreds of dollars an hour for legal advice.

--There isn't a certification or credentialing process, so families must be wary, says James Bergman, co-director of the nonprofit Center for Social Gerontology in Ann Arbor, Mich. "Anyone can hang up a shingle. Some are very good; some I wouldn't want to get near."

--The Assn. for Conflict Resolution lists mediators at Mediators can also be found at and

-- Rosemary McClure

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