By Tom Stodulka, Lead Mediation Professional, Heather Hill Pathways.
There can be no doubt that the roles of professionals working in the aged care and elder law environments are expanding greatly. This is not only because of the increasing numbers of families facing potential difficulties or conflict as the population ages, but also the increasing complexity of legal, psychological, health and social issues in this field.
After over twenty years mediating family law matters, I am increasingly being asked to mediate with families with an aged parent or parents either directly in a conversation between the elder parent and their child or children, or occasionally in matters between siblings. The parties to these conflicts are often coming to terms with feelings of loss, adjustments to the family circumstances and new dynamics that have not been experienced previously. These add significant complexity to the conflict resolution process, even for families where they may already have good long term relationships with one another.
Whilst mediation is an avenue that is useful to a number of these families, it is often my skills and qualifications as a conflict coach that are called upon in the early stages of disputes, particularly where the person may not feel ready for mediation or facing the prospect of going to court. Conflict coaching, like mediation, does not give a person legal, financial or medical advice or offer a form of counseling. Conflict coaching instead assists the person to identify and develop strategies, specific to that individual’s unique set of circumstances and goals, to empower them to resolve the dispute themselves. Whether this is by preparing them to run the resolution process themselves or for other interventions such as conversations with their siblings, scheduled mediation or even formal court processes.
Conflict coaching sessions are conducted one-on-one, usually for no more than an hour’s duration, and can be repeated as required. Whilst conflict coaching won’t always result in a perfect outcome, it will prepare the person to better manage some of the conversations that will need to take place during what can often be an emotionally draining and costly process for all participants.