Coordinators aim to resolve family conflicts

Aug 9, 2016

Five states are conducting pilot projects that aim to resolve high-conflict disputes among families and older adults through a new dispute-resolution process called eldercaring coordination.

The Association for Conflict Resolution Task Force on Eldercaring Coordination, in which NASW staff was involved, developed the process as articulated in the “Guidelines for Eldercaring Coordination,” released in late 2014.

Eldercaring coordinators assist older adults, legally authorized decision-makers and others who participate by court order or invitation to resolve disputes with high conflict levels that impact the older adult’s autonomy and safety.

The ACR Task Force is co-chaired by Sue Bronson and Linda Fieldstone, who say that eldercaring coordination is garnering attention — both among circuit court judges and others in the legal system and among aging services providers — as a potential resource to resolve family conflicts.

Bronson, who is an LCSW, noted that 36 Eldercaring coordinators have been trained in the five states — Florida, Indiana, Idaho, Ohio and Minnesota — that host the pilot programs.

Circuit courts in those states volunteer to be part of the project and agree to assign at least a minimum number of cases to eldercare coordinators.

Eldercaring coordinators include social workers, psychologists, other mental health professionals, attorneys and mediators, Bronson explained.

“Social workers are on the ground floor and are at the front line for this work,” Bronson said. “They are doing (the work) in ways the justices are finding helpful.”

Fieldstone said that while eldercaring coordination is performed with oversight of judges, the work is less about legal motions and more about discovering the family dynamics that are causing disputes.

Social workers are skilled in helping families through this process, she said.

Eldercaring coordinators benefit the court system by freeing up precious judicial time by addressing matters for which other dispute-resolution processes have been unavailable or have been ineffective, Bronson explained.

From the July 2016 NASW News. NASW members can read the full story here.