Mediation and Estate Planning Blog

My sister moved with my our Mom to provide care for her. Now my sister is dictating when we can call our Mom and when we can visit her. Can you help?

My sister moved with my our Mom to provide care for her. Now my sister is dictating when we can call our Mom and when we can visit her. Can you help?

At MPSV, this is a common situation that we are called upon to assist a family. There are usually many family dynamics occurring and the process that we use is different in each situation. However, the one approach we utilize the most is the following:

1. Obtaining an assessment regarding Mom's capacity to make and implement her own decisions

This evaluation is usually conducted by a specialized MD who will gauge Mom’s physical condition as well as her mental capacity. Even if Mom is not experiencing (yet) a great deal of dementia, it is usually helpful to obtain a baseline valuation that can be valuable in the future if Mom does show signs of dementia or other mental decline. This medical opinion will usually answer questions about Mom’s ability to be taken out of her home for extended periods of time and/or her ability to understand her family relationships.

2. Obtaining information from the care giving sister about the situation and any needs she might have

Many times, the family members acting as the care giver for their loved ones feel overwhelmed by the daily demands of the role that they have assumed and are unable or unwilling to ask for help for fear of being criticized as not being able to perform the care giver role. As a result, the care giver feels isolated and misunderstood. Listening to the care giver's frustrations is key so they can be relayed to the siblings.

3. Sharing with the other siblings the care giver discontent

In mediation, it is key that every party involved take the time to reflect on the other party feelings and perception of the situation. The care giver will be encouraged to share with the other family members any challenges they are having regarding Mom's care. The family members can then attempt to work together to devise a plan to address the care giver's concerns.

4. A private discussion with Mom

Usually in these situations, Mom does not want to hurt the feelings of the care giver daughter but may have her own opinions about changes she would like to see implemented. Finding out what Mom wants is key as it will be used during the mediation session to re-focus the siblings who are fighting on the main issue: what would make Mom happy and how can we achieve that as a whole.

Once this information has been gathered, a family mediation is scheduled where these topics can be discussed in order to find an agreement about changes that can be made to facilitate more open communication among the family members. Sometimes, the solution can be as simple as preparing a schedule of when visits or calls will occur. This schedule can also include holidays, Mom’s birthday, children’s birthdays, etc.

At MPSV, we endeavor to use discussion and communication to resolve conflict situation. Even in families where the conflict is very intense and a complete conflict resolution is difficult to achieve, it is always possible to reach agreements on some aspects of the conflict. It is not rare that this primary partial resolution will lead in the future to a complete resolution of the dispute between family members. The mediation can act as a trigger to assist the family members to become their own "conflict managers.”

Please contact us if we can be of assistance in working with a family you know to help resolve or manage conflict. We have the passion and the experience to assist families in distress.

Sophia Delacotte