JAX DAILY RECORDMONDAY, MAY. 30, 2016 1 year ago
Eldercaring' plan starts in 8 circuits
by: From The Florida Bar News Staff WriterWhat happens when mama is sick and dying, but her two daughters can’t agree on how to care for her, and their rift explodes to the point it’s harmful to mama?
There’s a new tool called “eldercaring coordination” now running as pilot projects in eight Florida circuits: the 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 13th, 15th, 17th and 18th.
The 7th Circuit comprises Flagler, Putnam St. Johns and Volusia counties.
Florida has joined Indiana, Idaho, Ohio and Minnesota in leading the effort to help manage what social workers call “high-conflict family dynamics” so that the vulnerable elder and family members can resolve their differences without litigation.
It is designed not only to make matters easier for the families and the elders, it also frees judges from micromanaging non-legal decisions that should be made by family members.
The concept is the brainchild of Linda Fieldstone, supervisor of Family Court Services in the 11th Circuit, who has worked for 25 years with parents and their children.
She was familiar with statutes and administrative rules that created “parenting coordination” to help parents of young children in high-conflict situations. She applied the same concept with children and their elderly parents, considering the number of baby boomers reaching 65 is projected to double from 2008 to 2030.
Fieldstone brought her idea to the Florida Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, when its president was Sandy Karlan, a retired 11th Circuit administrative family court judge.
“It makes sense that where there is conflict in families, it’s always better to try to resolve that conflict without litigation. So this made sense to take a tool working for families with children and see if it could be adapted to work with children and their parents,” she said.
Karlan appointed Fieldstone and 5th Circuit Judge Michelle Morley as co-chairs of a task force that led to the pilots. They convened a group of 20 statewide organizations including The Florida Bar Elder Law Section and Florida Legal Services.
Working with the Association for Conflict Resolution, their mission was to create eldercaring coordination that focuses on reducing the level of conflict so family members are better able to focus on the issues of their elder and work with others to provide health care, legal advice, advance directives, guidance, and planning.
Trying mediation to stem family feuds By Barbara Peters Smith
Published: Saturday, December 5, 2015 at 5:40 p.m.
HERALD-TRIBUNE ARCHIVE / 2015 / DAN WAGNER
Former 12th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Lee Haworth, is acting as administrator for the circuit for a pilot program aimed at keeping families out of probate court when an elder is incapacitated.
When bad blood runs in the family of an elder who develops dementia or frailty, the situation can slither downhill fast.
Entrenched rivalries and resentments only complicate the thorny question of how best to care for a vulnerable older parent or spouse. One brother may suspect another of financial exploitation, or an adult stepdaughter may accuse her mother’s second husband of neglect or even abuse.
If the dispute reaches a point where attorneys are consulted or authorities called, the likely result is an adult guardianship process that strips the elder of any legal right to make decisions, and places a relative or professional in full charge of his or her finances, personal life and health care. The more complicated and deep-seated the family feud, the more likely it is that a probate judge will appoint an outsider to act as guardian.
“I’ve served in every division,” says former 12th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Lee Haworth, who retired in August after 26 years. “But the anger that burns in probate cases burns incandescent.”
Divorce court can get ugly, too, he adds, “but there you only usually have two parties. Here, you can have dozens. You can imagine all the slights that a sibling experienced — all those things bubble to the surface when the adult parent becomes incapacitated. All those hostilities, all those concerns about where the estate’s going to go, get very intense.”
Families unhappy with Florida’s probate system say that instead of resolving discord, guardianship can make matters worse. They tell stories of intrusive professional oversight that depletes an elder’s life savings, while restricting the ward’s access to friends and relatives. They have sought, and obtained, limited reforms of the process in the Legislature.
Now the 12th circuit — with courts in Sarasota and Manatee counties — is one of eight Florida districts embarking on a new experiment with potential to stem the costly and bitter litigation that can erupt in guardianship cases. If successful, it could one day help families settle differences without resorting to probate court.
Eldercaring coordination is a conflict resolution method that brings all interested parties to one table for the purpose of developing a caregiving plan. Modeled on a concept used successfully in high-conflict divorce cases — parenting coordination — it is the product of a two-year collaboration among 20 Florida organizations, and 21 more on the national level.
Fifth Circuit Judge Michelle T. Morley, with Linda Fieldstone, director of family court services in the 11th Circuit, steered the Florida and national task forces to the pilot project stage. In addition to the eight Florida circuits, four state systems — Indian, Idaho, Ohio and Minnesota — are testing the value of treating incapacitated adults as family members who need care, instead of probate prizes to be fought over.
“The idea of a one-size-fits-all system for everybody is just not appropriate,” Fieldstone says of the guardianship process. “It shouldn’t be an adversarial system. We don’t do that with younger families; we shouldn’t be doing that with older families.”
Haworth is acting as administrator for this circuit, referring cases for possible resolution by one of three coordinators during the two-year pilot project. Each district has been asked to handle at least six cases in that period, and the results will be evaluated by academic researchers. The goal is to save time, money and angst, while concentrating on the elder’s safety and autonomy.
“Everyone says in the courtroom, ‘I’m here for my mom’s best interests.’ It’s really different when you sit down and you’re asked to present a plan together,” says Erika Dine, a Bradenton elder law attorney who will lead the three-person team, and is already working on her first case.
The other two local coordinators are retired New Jersey judge and mediator Karimu Hill-Harvey of Myakka City, and Debra K. Carter, a Sarasota psychologist, mediator and parent coordinator. The requirements for the job are rigorous, including at least a master’s degree, experience in a related field, and weeks of specialized training.
“It’s putting the solution back in the family’s hands, with the assistance of the eldercaring coordinator,” Dine explains. “As the coordinator, I can bring in experts and say, ‘Let’s sit together here and figure out what is the best plan, without you having to go to annihilation in court.'”
Haworth heard about the concept from Morley, and brought it to Chief Judge Charles Williams this summer. Around the same time, Dine says, she and a fellow attorney approached Williams to ask whether the collaborative approach used in family court might apply to adult guardianship cases.
These discussions coincided, Haworth says, with Herald-Tribune articles “about some of the problems about guardianship. Judge Williams is very interested in making sure the guardianship program is working in the best interests of these incapacitated people. He said, ‘This looks great; let’s try it.'”
Haworth says he is “cautiously optimistic” about eldercare coordination, despite two major hurdles. Because the method is experimental and not court-ordered, all family members must volunteer to participate. And because it’s unfunded, each participant will foot a portion of the cost — although coordinators may do some work pro bono.
“If one person refuses, that’s the end of it; the model is set up that you have to buy into it,” Haworth says. “The second thing is the money thing. I think that’s actually easier than the first one, because you can sell the idea that it’s going to be cheaper than litigation.”
The concept’s success, he believes, will depend on the coordinators chosen to implement it.
“It takes special people to do this; it takes a compassionate person who also has to follow legal principles,” he says. Embattled families are “so angry at the whole process, and don’t want to spend any more money, and that’s something the eldercare coordinator is going to have to overcome.”
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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.