By Dan Trevas | June 26, 2015
Ohio families often find themselves internally battling over planning and providing for the safety and well-being of elders. Heated disputes about vulnerable elderly family members and other caretakers have found their way into courtrooms with judges refereeing disputes.
Dispute-resolution professionals see a better way to help families and reduce court action through the guidance of “eldercaring coordinators.” Eldercaring coordination is a dispute resolution process during which an Eldercaring Coordinator assists elders, legally authorized decision-makers, and others who participate by court order or invitation to resolve disputes with high conflict levels in a manner that respects the elder’s need for autonomy and safety.
Ohio is at the forefront of developing a model program for these new positions, which seek to build better collaboration between the elderly, their family, and the existing network of doctors, care providers, attorneys, and others helping them manage their affairs.
In July, the Ohio Supreme Court’s Dispute Resolution Section is hosting the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR)’s Inaugural Eldercaring Coordination Training. ACR is a national professional association for mediators, arbitrators, educators, and other conflict-resolution practitioners, and was supportive of the development of parenting-coordination, a role that is now used in courts throughout the nation as a viable dispute resolution option for high-conflict cases between divorcing parents. The Guidelines for Parenting Coordination were developed through the Association for Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) Task Force in 2005.
Similar to parenting coordination, the ACR envisions the use of eldercaring coordination for guardianship/probate cases where high-conflict family dynamics interfere with the well-being and safety of the elder. The training in Ohio will be for representatives from courts in several states that are investigating the use of court designated eldercaring coordinators to manage the most difficult elder-care cases on the dockets.
Jacqueline Hagerott, manager of the Dispute Resolution Section, said Montgomery County will be the pilot test site for Ohio’s eldercaring coordination program. A group of some of the nation’s most accomplished trainers in dispute resolution, elder law, and the ethical practices for caring for the elderly will serve as faculty for the training.
Eldercaring coordination focuses on improving relationships so that family members can better collaborate with professionals to address the onslaught of tough decisions that need to be made. Often, when families dispute how to care for an elderly member, it results in the failure to obey court orders, impeding court processes, and hampering professional service providers. Hagerott said with the pending growth of elderly Americans who will be in need of guardians or assistance, the likelihood for high-conflict cases is bound to grow and Ohio courts are preparing to address the influx through the use of dispute resolution process including mediation and eldercaring coordination.
For the pilot project, those selected to be eldercaring coordinators will have extensive training to develop the skills needed to bring these families to the table and develop effective mechanisms to help them resolve issues and make decisions jointly. In Montgomery County, the eldercaring coordinators will have the benefit of a court order outlining the scope and authority of their work with the family and other care providers. The eldercaring coordinators have limited decision-making authority which is outlined within the court order.
However, their primary goal is to facilitate the ability of the elder and other eldercaring coordination participants to work collaboratively in a way that respects the safety and autonomy of the elder. In doing so the eldercaring coordinator will assist the parties in creating, modifying and implementing an elder care plan, if necessary to reach a resolution that is in the best interest of the elder while addressing the concerns of all those involved, Hagerott noted.
Based on feedback received from the pilot, Hagerott said the group will take what it learns to develop model forms, training programs, and rules that other courts can use to adopt the concept.
The three-day training takes place in July at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center.