(JUNE 2018 EDITION)
by Judge Michelle Morley 5th Judicial Circuit
Less than three years after the eight Florida Eldercaring Coordination Pilot Project Sites first launched, eldercaring coordination has now been recognized by the United Nations. On June 14, 2018, Linda Fieldstone and I, the co-chairs of the Florida Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Eldercaring Coordination Initiative, presented on eldercaring coordination with Sue Bronson, co-chair of the Association for Conflict Resolution Elder Justice Initiative, at a program sponsored by the NGO Committee on Ageing and the International Network for Prevention of Elder Abuse. It was attended by representatives from the U. N. Missions who are members of the Group of Friends of Older Persons. Eldercaring coordination was one of only two programs presented at the U. N. on behalf of North America.
There has been much discussion regarding eldercaring coordination and other guardianship issues becoming part of family divisions instead of probate divisions in order to avoid possible duplication of services, resources, and time from parties in the court. Eldercaring coordination is an alternative dispute resolution process that is intended to assist families driven by conflict over the care and future of an aging loved one. Modeled after parenting coordination, eldercaring coordination complements and works collaboratively with other professional services. Families are referred to eldercaring coordination by courts from guardianship, mental health, and adult protective services cases. Courts identify appropriate cases based on the following factors:
Eldercaring Coordinators (ECs) are trained and qualified to work with family members and help them to let go of their differences, build commonalities, and focus their energy on the needs and welfare of their elders. Eldercaring coordination manages family dynamics, provides a support system as the elder transitions to distinct levels of care, addresses risks, and promotes the safety of the elder, including monitoring situations where caregivers may be over-extended. Eldercaring coordination fosters self-determination of the aging loved one for as long as possible. The EC is appointed for a period of time up to two years so that the family can return to eldercaring coordination instead of court if new issues arise.
Fees for eldercaring coordination vary. The ECs set their own fees just like any other professionals. The Eldercaring Coordination Pilot Project Site Administrator works to best match a family to an EC who is the most accessible, affordable, culturally appropriate, and best-suited to the issues the family brings to the table. The judge referring the family to eldercaring coordination will allocate the EC's fees among the parties. StayWell, the managing entity for Medicaid and Medicare in Florida and many other states, has bestowed a grant of $1,000 per pilot project site in recognition of family conflict being a healthcare issue for aging persons. StayWell hopes that its grant will enable more families to use the eldercaring coordination process to address family conflict. Beginning in 2019, StayWell members in Florida may also apply their coverage to the cost of eldercaring coordination when recommended by their care managers. This is a landmark.
The American Arbitration Association Foundation has provided a grant to supplement the cost for training ECs. At least one training for ECs is being planned for the fall as Maryland is piloting a new site, and Ohio and Idaho are expanding their pilot sites. Toronto, Ontario, and Orange County, California are also hoping to launch new Eldercaring Coordination Pilot Project Sites soon, too. The feedback that has been received on this groundbreaking approach to conflict in families caring for elders has all been positive. In one case, the presiding judge remarked that it saved the life of an elder whose care was in abeyance until the EC helped the family develop a care plan. In another case, the elder remarked that this was the best Father's Day he ever had because eldercaring coordination enabled family members, who had been blocked from visiting, to finally have access to him. The EC works with the family to develop better communication and negotiating skills so that the court does not have to micromanage the elder's care. The judges who have referred cases to eldercaring coordination notice a marked reduction in the number if not a total elimination of contested hearings in those cases.
The following Florida jurisdictions are currently participating in the Eldercaring Coordination Pilot Project:
If you are not in a pilot site circuit but are interested in bringing eldercaring coordination to your circuit, contact Linda Fieldstone (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Michelle Morley (email@example.com) for more information. The process is simple. You will receive assistance in identifying people already in your Circuit who can be trained to become Eldercaring Coordinators. All the forms you will need to refer cases have been drafted in a template and will be made available for your use. You will receive preliminary training in identifying and referring cases, and an invitation to monthly meetings as well as continuous support available whenever you need it.
Those at the U.N. presentation understood the urgency of responding to elders and their loved ones in the throes of conflict, and its influence on all of the family members when asked to. Think of how you would want the story to unfold if it was your parent OR YOU in the middle of family turmoil when you are old, losing capacity, and afraid. Do you want to spend the last chapter amidst the downpour of flying accusations and heated arguments? A situation is ripe for abuse and exploitation. Or would you prefer to have a comforting time with family members collaborating to meet your needs and keeping you safe? Remember what parents want most for the family to all get along. Eldercaring coordination honors that aging person's wish by giving their family the tools and support needed to create a legacy their aging loved one can feel proud of continuing for generations a legacy of peace in the family.