replace, other services such as provision of legal information, legal
representation, individual/family therapy, medical interventions,
psychological or psychiatric evaluation, and mediation.
This innovation is timely as aging baby boomers are swelling the
population of elderly, doubling its numbers by the year 2030. The
burden on an already overworked
court system will be enormous,
leading to extraordinary delays
in court cases. For probate and
guardianship courts, where
capacity and life determinations
of terminally ill are the focus of
disputes, such delays interfere with
literally life and death decisions.
The Eldercaring Coordinator’s Role. Like a parenting
coordinator, an eldercaring coordinator would work with the
stakeholders involved in the elder court process (i.e., spouse,
children, siblings, extended family members, and friends as well
as guardian, attorney, medical provider, etc.) who are too focused
on themselves to collaborate effectively.
They can help make crucial decisions that could lead to an
emotionally healing process.
Organizations participating in the Eldercaring
Coordination Task Force:
Alternative Dispute Resolution Institute of Canada
American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy
American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging
American Bar Association Dispute Resolution Section
American Psychological Association
Association of American Retired Persons
Association of Conflict Resolution
Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
Elder Justice Coalition
Florida Chapter of the
Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
Hamlin University School of Law
National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers
National Adult Protective Services Association
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
National Association of Social Workers
National Center for State Courts
National College of Probate Judges
National Committee on the Prevention of Elder Abuse
National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
National Guardianship Association
National Guardianship Network
The work of the eldercaring coordinator concentrates on reducing
and managing the conflict experienced by the family and
stakeholders so that better decisions can be made more efficiently
and without delay, and on creating a support system amongst them
that helps ease their transitions throughout the eldercaring process.
The eldercaring coordinator may work on his or her own with
the family-at-large in dealing with conflict pertaining to differing
needs and views of the elder, or as part of the team of experts that
are assisting the family with financial planning and medical care.
The eldercaring coordinator may prepare the family to work with
an elder mediator, geriatric care manager, guardian, therapists,
physicians and attorneys. When the interpersonal dynamics are
addressed, the family and stakeholders will be better able to work
with the necessary collaterals to ensure that their time left with
their loved one is more fulfilling and that they have cemented
relationships, if possible, that will help them join in a healing
process when the time arrives.
Unlike other professionals,
eldercaring coordinators are solely
focused on addressing the conflict,
nothing else. They do not provide
any dual service; they are only
there to help the families cope with
decision-making, use the resources
available, and cooperate with
the legal process. They therefore
have no conflict of interest, and
make no recommendations specific to actual care, medical needs,
financial issues, legal matters, psychological treatment, etc.
Eldercaring coordination is for those conflict-driven cases that
would otherwise result in multiple legal actions, distracting from
the care of the elder, even to the extent of elder abuse or neglect.
It reduces the frustration felt by the participating professionals,
enabling them to work with the family members and elder more
cooperatively, avoiding being used as a tool or become enmeshed
in the conflict. It should also minimize adversarial court processes,
reducing the time and expense of excessive motions to the court
and focusing the family and stakeholders on less adversarial means
of dispute resolution.
Specifically, the court would authorize the eldercaring
1. address high conflict dynamics within the family and
2. identify issues of accord as well as conflict;
3. help to coordinate and ready the elder and family to use
appropriate resources to lead to better informed decision-making;
4. facilitate a resolution to issues on a timely basis; and,
5. teach conflict resolution and build a support mechanism.
The Eldercaring Coordination Process. Eldercaring coordination
can ease the burden of elders on the legal system as non-legal
disputes are resolved independently from the court. The process
will help manage high conflict family dynamics so that the elder,
family and stakeholders can address issues themselves fostering self-determination of the elder and family. It also readies the elder and
family to work with collaterals to address the care and needs of the
elder; families and stakeholders working jointly toward the benefit
of the elder are better equipped to make appropriate and healthy
decisions, taking the advice of medical and financial experts and
utilizing mediation and elder case management as necessary.
The families can learn and practice a new way to interact with
one another even in the face of disagreements. They can become a
support for one another and work as a better functioning system
during times of transition.
Safety issues must be kept front and center. We expect to develop a
protocol for screening for elder abuse and neglect and to monitor
situations at high risk for abuse or neglect.
Cases in Family and Probate/Guardianship Courts. Perhaps the
greatest innovation of the eldercaring coordination idea is that it
can change not only the way courts dealing with these issues view
the litigants, but also the way that court divisions work with each
other. Family and Probate/Guardianship Divisions will be able to
The eldercaring coordinator helps
stakeholders reduce and manage their
conflict, so that instead of sabotaging
the process they can become effective
resources for the elder as well as the court.