By Linda Fieldstone, M.Ed., Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator, Florida Qualified Parenting Coordinator, Past President, FLAFCC; Judge Michelle Morley, Circuit Judge, 5th Judicial Circuit; Yueh-Mei Kim Nutter, Esq., Board Certified Specialist in Marital & Family Law Partner, Brinkley Morgan
Since the FLAFCC Task Force on Eldercaring Coordination approved Guidelines for Eldercaring Coordination in 2015, Florida has joined four other states in the Elder Justice Initiative on Eldercaring Coordination: Idaho, Indiana, Ohio and Minnesota. Eight Circuits in Florida are currently Pilot Sites, providing Eldercaring Coordination (www.EldercaringcoordinationFL.org)
as a more humane response to high conflict cases involving the care and safety of an elder. Already over 50 cases have been referred to the process and the results the Eldercaring Coordinators have generated are positive and encouraging. Here are the top ten ways that Eldercaring Coordination can make a difference in the care and safety of elders in high conflict families:
1. Eldercaring Coordination is a court ordered dispute resolution option especially developed to help high conflict families focus more productively on issues related to the care and safety of an elder. The focus is on the elder, rather than competing individual agendas.
2. Ongoing conflict and personal agendas consume the time and energy of everyone involved and often impedes the care of the elder. When family members feel heard, the potential for conflict decreases and the elder’s needs can be addressed sooner.
3. The Eldercaring Coordinator addresses non-legal, family issues so that attorneys and the court can address legal issues without constant disruptions. This helps to avoid frivolous and highly emotional hearings.
4. Eldercaring Coordination reduces risks and increases safety for the elder and others participating. Eldercaring Coordinators have been able to identify issues such as elder neglect, mental vulnerability, unsafe environments, coercion, physical problems, isolation, caregiver incapacity, elder relocation, and substance abuse or mis-medication.
5. Eldercaring Coordination promotes private, informed decision-making out of court by ensuring everyone has the same information. The Eldercaring Coordinator may serve as a liaison, when necessary, to share information and keep the doors open to communication and information gathering.
6. Eldercaring Coordination encourages collaboration, so families can generate more ideas and options for the elder that are feasible and convenient. The spectrum of care options is expanded so that well-informed decisions can be made from the range of opportunities available.
7. Eldercaring Coordinators help develop a support system for the elder and their families, optimizing the use of community resources, and experts. Attorneys, guardians, financial experts, mediators, aging life care professionals, and others are able to assist the elder and family with specified issues and fewer barriers.
8. The Eldercaring Coordinator is neutral. In a neutral environment, there is a greater chance of cooperation, as it takes the parties out of the adversarial framework of the court. Since parties share the payment of fees, the perception that the Eldercaring Coordinator can be “bought” or “influenced” by participants dissolves.
9. According to the term specified within the Court Order of Referral, the Eldercaring Coordinator is available across an extended period of time. This structure allows the Eldercaring Coordinator to assist the family through the many transitions the elder faces during the aging process.
10. Whether in a facility or a family member’s home, the elder is empowered to reunite with family members and others who may have previously been precluded from visiting. Together, the family and elder are able to resume meaningful connections and obtain closure on past issues. Even the youngest members of the family benefit from these more positive intergenerational influences.
If you are interested in developing an Eldercaring Coordination Pilot Site, contact FLAFCC Task Force Co-Chairs Linda Fieldstone, M.Ed. (Lindafieldstone@outlook.com) or Judge Michelle Morley (Mmorley@circuit5.org).