There is a collective belief forming among elder experts that one of the most effective ways to prevent elder abuse, particularly financial abuse, is through mediation.
What Is Elder Financial Abuse?
Financial abuse is the most reported and analysed form of elder abuse, because it’s the most common form of elder abuse. Usually perpetrated by a family member, an Australian study found that between one-third and two-thirds of those experiencing financial abuse had dementia.
Financial abuse was carried out through means including misuse of powers of attorney, coerced changes to wills, unethical trading in title to property, and the coercion of people without capacity into signing documents in relation to assets that would result in financial gain for the perpetrator.
In order to prevent elder abuse, we must understand what the risk factors are for its perpetration. The strongest risk factors that have been identified for older people being financially abused are: a family member having a strong sense of entitlement to an older person’s property or possessions; the older person having diminished capacity; and the older person being dependent on a family member for care. Many older people with dementia are likely to experience a number of these risk factors.
What Is Elder Mediation?
Elder mediation is defined here as a mediation process used to improve the wellbeing of individuals, families and society in areas that are characteristic of issues that arise for the elderly.
Elder mediation has many of the characteristics of the mediation processes that are provided by organisations around child care, restorative justice, care of adults with disabilities, mental health issues or separation. Family mediation will assist with conflict issues throughout life. Elder mediation focuses on the end phases of life, notably loss of work, health and life itself.
How Can Mediation Help Prevent Elder Abuse?
When elder mediation is considered the issue of “capacity” is often raised as a barrier to the consideration of mediation. The issue of mental capacity itself is generally regarded as not suitable for mediation because it is a legal determination. Numerous other issues arise in connection with an application for adult guardianship, however. For example, there can be a dispute over who among several family members is to be the guardian, or over the extent of the powers the guardian should have. Issues of this kind are amenable to negotiation and agreement among interested parties, and leave room for mediated solutions.
Mediation services may be a way to “tailor” solutions to an individual’s circumstances. The development of elder mediation in particular builds on the general trend in increased use of mandatory and/or voluntary mediation. Mediation is becoming a common stage in conflict resolution, most notably in family law and employment law. How the question is being asked: why can’t mediation be used in elder law as a means to prevent elder abuse?