Linda Fieldstone, M.Ed., Co-Chair of the Association for Conflict Resolution and Florida Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Elder Justice Initiatives on Eldercaring Coordination, is former President of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC); was President of its Florida Chapter (FLAFCC); Secretary of the AFCC Task Force on Parenting Coordination 2005 and recorder for the 2019 Task Force to update standards; and presently on the Florida Supreme Court Rules and Policies Committee. She is a Florida Qualified Parenting Coordinator and Neutral Facilitator in Collaborative Family Law Practice. Ms. Fieldstone is involved in research, training, and consultation in the U.S and internationally and written numerous articles on high conflict families, family court services, empirically based parenting plans and parenting coordination and eldercaring coordination, and a chapter in More Justice More Peace: When Peace Makers are Advocates (March 2020). In 2018, Ms. Fieldstone was honored with the Florida Supreme Court Sharon Press Excellence in ADR Award in recognition of her visionary leadership, professional integrity and unwavering devotion to the field of alternative dispute resolution, given the Community Service Award by the Florida Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, and she presented to the United Nations on eldercaring coordination in honor of World Abuse Awareness Day. Ms. Fieldstone was Supervisor of Family Court Services, serving the 11th Judicial Circuit, Florida, Miami-Dade County, Florida, for 26 years and is currently servicing the community through Family Resolutions, LLC, providing conflict resolution opportunities to families of all ages before, during or after court actions.
Eldercaring coordination: Address family conflict to protect older adults and future generations
Sue Bronson, M.S., LCSW, Co-Chair of the Association for Conflict Resolution Elder Justice Initiative on Eldercaring Coordination. Ms. Bronson is a mediator, trainer, and retired psychotherapist in Milwaukee, WI since 1983 mediating family, elder, and workplace disputes. Sue has over thirty-five years mediation experience helping people engage in quality conversations. She is the lead trainer for eldercaring coordination developing and delivering experiential trainings across the nation. Ms. Bronson teaches mediation at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee School of Continuing Education and has been a regular guest instructor for mediation classes taught at regional law schools. The Ohio Supreme Court requested Ms. Bronson for the development of their e-learning course for family mediation. Recent publications include National Association of Elder Law Attorney’s journal article (Spring 2018) and a chapter in More Justice More Peace: When Peace Makers are Advocates (March 2020). Sue is the lead author of Self-Assessment Tool for Mediators translated into three languages. Sue was a charter member of the Wisconsin Association of Mediators, served on the Academy of Family Mediators board, is a past Chair of the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) Family Section and past Co-Chair of the ACR Elder Section. Currently, Sue is a committee chair on the American Bar Association Task Force on Elder Abuse Screening Guidelines for Mediators. For relaxation, Sue enjoys gardening and working/playing with her dog in obedience and agility.
Linda Fieldstone, Association for Conflict Resolution; Florida Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, United States
Sue Bronson, Association for Conflict Resolution, United States
Dorothy, 82, is cared for by her stepdaughter, who remembers the suffering faced being constantly ridiculed while growing up in a home where her stepsisters were overtly favored. Is it possible that the stepdaughter is now making decisions for Dorothy that may be pay-back for those earlier years? Her stepsisters don’t help at all but are all too happy to make accusations about their mother’s care. Martin, 74, signed some papers for his eldest son, then was moved to his son’s brand-new house; ever since he hasn’t had a call or visit from his other children or grandchildren. Now the court is addressing competing motions for guardianship, taking even more attention away from Martin.
Abuse, exploitation, isolation and family conflict increases risks for older adults, jeopardizing their care and safety. In honor of World Abuse Awareness Day 2018, the United Nations highlighted eldercaring coordination as an Action Model for the Welfare of Ageing Persons. According to the World Health Organization, one in six older adults experience elder abuse, with only one in 24 cases reported. Of those, a large majority are perpetrated by family members. Eldercaring coordination is a court-ordered dispute resolution process created specifically for families in high conflict regarding the care and safety of an ageing loved one.
The eldercaring coordination process begins with screening to identify risks, abuse and exploitation of the ageing person, and includes ongoing screenings throughout the process. Because Eldercaring Coordinators are appointed for a term of up to two years, they can develop relationships with older adults and family members that help them unlock identified harmful patterns and behaviors affecting the safety and quality of life of the ageing person.
Little attention has been given to address conflict in older families until now. However, the innovation of eldercaring coordination has prompted a major U.S. Health Provider to formally recognize family conflict as a health issue for elders. Panelists from the U.S. and Canada will present research on the deleterious multigenerational effects of older family conflict and the efficacy of eldercaring coordination, discuss the relevance of ongoing screening, and offer an empirically-based eldercaring conflict tool to identify typology of family conflict to protect older adults and lead to more targeted interventions for their families.
Presenter #1, Linda Fieldstone
Family conflict can undermine the autonomy, health and safety of ageing persons. Multigenerational contention leads to risks for older adults lost in the shuffle of court processes, suffering humiliation during the public airing of family discord and threatened by delays in even life-threatening decision-making. Even the youngest in families are affected when conflict becomes the normalcy of adult activity and parents immersed in legal proceedings, with tension mounting as time and money are consumed by court battles. Research shows that coping resources are reduced for subsequent generations, as family alliances have disrupted their support system. Lessons learned result in abusive patterns perpetuated by younger generations when they are older.
Eldercaring Coordinators identify risks and abuse to older adults. A study involving the first cases in eldercaring coordination shows 100% of judges describing eldercaring coordination as “very effective”. One judge even reported that the process “saved a life.” Eldercaring Coordinators are specially trained to recognize signs of neglect and mistreatment, working with ageing persons and their families and coordinating multi-disciplinary teams – all while ensuring the ageing person’s voice is at the center of the conversations. This session will explore concrete ways in which eldercaring coordination can prevent and stop elder abuse.
Presenter #2, Sue Bronson
It is crucial for professionals to screen for elder abuse and exploitation when meeting with older adults and their families. The American Bar Association created a Task Force to develop an elder abuse screening tool for mediators, that can also be used by Eldercaring Coordinators and others. The tool provides: indicators of abuse, questions to ask family members or others involved, questions to ask the elder, and interventions.
Following best practice protocols enhances the outcome of screening. Interviews are held separately with each participant and, whenever possible, face-to-face, with no one else present for sensitive questions. The goal is to make the screening interview more conversational than a checklist. The Task Force used several well-constructed questions to address five areas of abuse: physical, emotional/psychosocial, sexual, neglect, and financial exploitation. Topic areas are listed in positive terms to elicit information including both what is going well and risks of abuse involving care, well-being, physical safety and comfort, self-care, and finances. Since respect for self-determination is paramount and specific responses are not required, the relationship with the interviewer is the most effective information-gathering tool. Training for screening includes sensitivity to family dynamics and feelings of individuals, and emphasizing trauma informed services.
Presenter #3, Michael Saini
Dr. Michael Saini of the University of Toronto Factor-Inwentash Law and Social Work collaborated with the Elder Justice Initiative on Eldercaring Coordination to develop an Eldercaring Conflict Checklist (ECC), with the goal of helping eldercaring coordinators and other professionals to provide targeted responses and interventions to older families in conflict. Some individuals experience increasing frailty, risk of disability, and cognitive decline as they age. As a result, many older adults become more reliant on family. Their relationships can be protective, providing assistance with care and reducing older adults’ stress and feelings of isolation. But sometimes even well-intentioned support exacerbates conflict within the family system, especially when perceived as overly intrusive or controlling.
Assessing and understanding conflicts within family networks is critical for effective interventions and protections for ageing persons. However, there is a lack of consensus in the eldercare literature on how best to define and measure conflict. The Eldercaring Conflict Checklist will help Eldercaring Coordinators and other professionals identify and differentiate between levels of conflict in order to direct more targeted services and supports needed in a timely and efficient way, protect the safety of older adults, and make family justice services more responsive to the needs of individual families.