With a Little Help’s 3rd Annual Care Conference March 8th & 9th, 2017

February 6th, 2017

Updated Poster

Sponsored by With a Little Help in Partnership with:
Care Partners and the Alzheimer’s Association

Care Partners Logo Jpeg 1


CLICK HERE to Register Today for With a Little Help’s 3rd Annual Conference

As part of our commitment to provide excellent training for our caregivers and community, we have put together an exciting lineup of local and national speakers and topics for our 3rd Annual Care Conference-Providing Excellent Care in All Seasons on March 8th & 9th, 2017.

The three workshops each day hold valuable insight for several audiences: Family Caregivers, Professional Caregivers, Nurses, Care Managers, Social Workers, Discharge Planners, Nursing Home Administrators and Guardians. All classes are CE and CEU accredited for professionals.

Want to learn more about the basics of memory loss or how you can find creative ways to engage with the person you are caring for? Want a deeper understanding of the role movement has in making a difference for people living with memory Loss? Wish to learn more about the wide range of cultural preferences at as you approach end of life? Do you know who should have a POLST form why? Are you grieving after the loss of a client or loved one? Below we have a list of speakers and their topics to help you identify what classes will be most useful for you on YOUR journey.

One of our priorities is to be a great resource and at the conference you will enjoy rich displays from our exhibitors so that they can be a resource for you as well. Here’s just a taste of the vendors who will be there: CarePartners, The Alzheimer’s Association, EvergreenHealth, Providence, CESCO Medical, Washington Poison Center, American Parkinson’s Disease Association, and Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Memory Care Program.

Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to hear both national and regional speakers presenting pragmatic strategies for anyone engaged in caregiving or serving older adults. Join us Wednesday and Thursday March 8 and 9 at the North Seattle College campus for a few laughs and lots of great information. All of our workshops are affordable at $15.00 per CEU, but if you take 3 or more they become $10.00 per CEU.

Conference Speakers and Presentations

Steve Overman
Dr. Steve Overman
Dr. Overman has been a rheumatologist, UW professor & researcher, expedition physician, HMO medical director, integrated care innovator, a Boy Scout Troop Master, author and bicycle commuter. He collaborated with patients to do a Discovery Channel Mystery Diagnosis program, to write a book and twice to cycle the Oregon for the Arthritis Foundation. Having helped his wife navigate stage III breast cancer, he is again refocused on patient advocacy and empowerment and musculoskeletal value-based care.

(1 CEU) Help Your Client – Help Your Doctor – Help Us All
Do you understand how our healthcare system is handicapping our country? Does your care experience add to or lessen this impact? Do you know how to prevent being discounted or dismissed in a doctor’s office, or what to do if you are? What can you do about the doctor burnout problem, the rising costs of care and our overall population health? Let’s increase our awareness of the roles each of us can play.

GinnyGinny Moore
After a 35-year career in the corporate graphic design field, Ginny Moore made the plunge from sitting behind a desk to sitting in front of a human being. She has worked for With a Little Help for over five years. “Caregiving is wonderfully rewarding and consistently challenging. It builds character. I consider it a spiritual practice.” She is the author of Don’t Make Lemonade: Leaning Into Life’s Difficult Transitions.

(1 CEU) Let’s Connect! Gain & Maintain a Rapport with Clients
You are knocking on the door of a new client. Your stomach is churning. How will this go? What do you say? How will you make a good first impression? Ginny Moore has answers for you. From her own and other caregiver experiences, she shares ways to hit it off with new clients. Learn the importance of connecting with your client, and three simple words to always keep in mind for every shift.

ScottJeretta Scott, MS, National Trainer and State Outreach Rep OEI/Captel
Jeretta has spent her career dedicated to seniors and training for 25+ years. For the past three years she has served as the State Outreach Rep and National Trainer for the CapTel Captioning Telephone for OEI. OEI provides Outreach, Education and Installation on behalf of the free federal program for the CapTel Captioning telephone.

Working every day all day with people who experience hearing loss I have had the opportunity to truly understand the impacts of hearing loss far beyond the person who wears hearing aids. Sharing about hearing loss beyond the medical aspect to raise awareness to this high impact low discussion topic needs to be given a voice. Many resources, technologies and amazing professionals exist to provide the quality of life all deserve regardless of how good ears are functioning.

Life BEYOND and BEHIND the Hearing Aid
In this presentation Jeretta will help us understand the non-medical affect that hearing loss has on both the person with hearing loss and the person caring and communicating with them. She will help us understand the social and cultural impacts of hearing loss and the communities affected. Jerretta will also provide us with resources and communication techniques to open up better lines of communication for all!

D DesonierDon Desonier
Don provides coaching and mediation services to caregivers and families of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias. He has a Certificate in Gerontology from the University of Washington. Don leads a dementia support group for men through the Alzheimer’s Association. He is also trained as an Elder and Adult Family Mediator, and has a Juris Doctor degree. More information on Don’s coaching and mediation practice can be found

(1 CEU) Diffusing Conflict: The Magic of Listening and Language
Those who care for seniors – be they professionals or family members – want to provide the best, most loving and engaging care possible. We are all human, however, and thus conflict can often occur in interactions between the caregiver and the receiver of their care. Attendees will learn how empathic listening and the words they use are key tools to diffuse stress, anger, anxiety and fear.

M L PannenMary Lynn Pannen
Sound Options’ CEO and President, Mary Lynn Pannen, is one of the nation’s leading experts on Geriatric Management and Home Care for seniors and individuals with complex and wide- ranging needs. Her expertise and passion for quality care and advocacy makes her a well-known and resourceful voice and a sought-after speaker and advisor on both the local and national level. She has grown Sound Options into the largest private Care Management firm in Washington State.

(1 CEU) Music & The Mind
Caring for a loved one with dementia demands our creativity. In this presentation, learn how music can be an important tool for caregivers. See concrete examples of how music can increase quality of life and help connect individuals with dementia to their own story, their loved ones, and their community. You’ll take away resources along with the do’s and don’ts of making a playlist for your own loved one with dementia.

Siri McLean

Siri McLean, founder of Adelie Disaster Solutions, is a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) with a passion to help people prepare for disasters and have fun doing it! She has spent the past 10 years working for both Microsoft and the University of Washington teaching personal preparedness classes, managing Emergency Operations Centers and facilitating disaster exercises. She has a master’s degree in Strategic Planning for Critical Infrastructure and is the co-founder of the Pacific Northwest Disaster Divas, a group of women emergency manager who mentor and support one another.

(1 CEU) Being Ready Matters: Preparing Yourself and Helping Your Clients
Over the past several years we have watched as earthquakes have devastated cities around the world and wondered could that happen here? The Pacific Northwest is not immune. It is not a matter of if, but when the next big one will strike. When it does will, you be ready? This training will identify the steps you can take to prepare yourself, your families and your home. Preparing for disasters can actually be fun!

Lisa SteubingCoach Lisa Stuebing founded Mud Puddle Fitness, a Medical Exercise practice. She is widely considered an industry leader in older adult health and wellness. Specialties include brain health, chronic pain management, movement disorders and fall prevention. She teaches for the Brain Injury Alliance of Washington, and speaks for the Arthritis Foundation and the American Heart Association | American Stroke Association. Coach Lisa is a member of the International Parkinson’s and Movement Disorder Society.

( 0.5 CEU) Feel Better, Move Better
These are exciting times in brain health. Scientists used to ask if the mind could change the brain. This is now widely accepted. It is even understood which circuit in the brain will help with both cognition and movement. In this fast paced session, learn easy, low cost activities to share with those in your care. Learn why these activities work. Challenge clients mentally, decrease falls risk (even seated) and stimulate muscle recruitment.

S CameronStephanie Cameron, RN
Stephanie is from the Pacific Northwest and has worked in the health care industry for 12+ years. She began her career as a caregiver and quickly discovered her passion for providing care for an aging population.

Stephanie began her care management career immediately after graduating from nursing school, and in 2015 she received her CCM (Certified Case Manager) certification. Stephanie is also a Certified Aging in Place Specialist and owner of Transitions Care Management.

(1 CEU) Keeping Your Client Safe & at Home
Stephanie Cameron, RN, CCM, CAPS and Amy Astle-Raan, MSW, Social Work Care Manager will provide hope, resources and support for caregivers in the role of assisting elders to safely preserve their independence at home. This “Aging in Place” workshop will cover the following topics and will include time for questions and answers:
• Basic fall prevention
• Managing and monitoring fluids, nutrition, sleep and medications
• Minimizing common causes of hospital readmissions
• Pressure ulcer prevention

S MehlStephanie Mehl RN, MS has served as a Clinical Liaison/Community Educator at Providence Hospice of Seattle for over 9 years helping patients and families make important end-of-life decisions. She has 30 years of health care and nursing experience with special expertise in palliative/end of life care, oncology, behavioral health/counseling, and clinical research. She has worked in several academic settings, including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Strang Cancer Prevention Center and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. She is thrilled to be a witness to the positive changes occurring in how we deal with end of life in our culture and is committed to community action to further the cause.She received her BSN from the University of Vermont and an MSN from Hunter College in NYC.

(1 CEU) Who Should Have a POLST and Why (About that neon green form!)
“Having the Conversation” and advanced care planning is finally getting the attention deserved in order to assure people’s wishes are followed during serious illness and/or end of life. But what is a POLST and how does that relate to the discussion and advanced care planning documents?
This hour long seminar will provide an overview of the POLST or Physicians Order for Life Sustaining Treatment. The 5 W’s (what it is, why it exists, when to use it, where it should be kept and who should use it) will be explored. A review of the form and case studies will be offered and discussed.
It is the ethical and professional responsibility to help seriously ill folks improve the quality of their life and have control over their EOL care. Health Care workers have a duty to assure this document is at least addressed by patients and/or families and included as part of the care plan.

Trudy JamesProducer Trudy James is a graduate of the University of Kansas and of Union Theological Seminary in New York City. She is a long-time, interfaith hospital chaplain who pioneered the concept of faith-based Care Teams for persons living with AIDS in the South in the early days of the epidemic and later in Seattle. She worked as a chaplain at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for five years. After retiring, she created a business called Heartwork through which she has facilitated over 60 end of life planning groups called “A Gift for Yourself and Your Loved Ones.” The concept for Speaking of Dying grew out of those groups, Trudy’s life experience and her compassionate heart. She is grateful to Jennifer Jones, videographer and Catherine Wadley, editor, and to all who participated in the creation of Speaking of Dying. Trudy passionately believes that everyone has the right to a meaningful, peaceful ending.

(2 CEUs) Sad isn’t Bad–Supporting Yourself and your Clients in Times of Loss, Grief and Death.
Loss and death are natural, normal parts of aging. Working with older adults increases the frequency with which one encounters these experiences. When you lose someone, the day to day work continues, but you are affected in many ways. We need to understand the various aspects of loss and our own unique responses. We will learn how to support ourselves and each other when loss occurs and learn some of the tools and resources that can support us on this journey.

E Bass Award Winning – Sandglass Theater ‘s
Eric Bass, Performer

Co-Founding Artistic Director of Sandglass Theater
Eric has worked for thirty years as a director, playwright, performer, and mask and puppet maker. In 1982, he founded Sandglass Theater in Munich, Germany, with his wife, Ines Zeller Bass. As a director, Eric has worked in America, Australia, Poland, and Finland, as well as the United States. In 1991, he was awarded the Figurentheater Prize of the City of Erlangen, Germany for his contributions to the field of puppet theater. He directed The Story of the Dog, a collaborative piece between Sandglass Theater and Sovanna Phum Theater in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, which toured Cambodia in 2005 and premiered in the U.S. in the fall of 2006. He served for five years on the board of the Network of Ensemble Theaters. In 2010, Eric received the Vermont Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

I ZellerAward Winning Sandglass Theater ‘s
Ines Zeller
, Performer
Ines Zeller Bass, Performer, Co-Founding Artistic Director of Sandglass Theater
Ines has been performing with puppets since 1968, when she became a member of the Munich marionette theater, Kleines Speil. In 1978, she created her children’s hand puppet theater, Punschi, which has toured Europe and America. In 1982, Ines co-founded Sandglass Theater with husband Eric in Germany and moved the theater to Vermont in the mid-1980s. Ines is the Director of Sandglass Theater’s children’s programs, collaborates with Eric on all of the theater’s programming, works with local schoolchildren, and directs workshops and residencies for puppetry students. She is a UNIMA citation winner, and in 2010, received the Vermont Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

K MurphyAward Winning Sandglass Theater ‘s
Kirk Murphy, Performer
Kirk has been both puppeteer and administrator with Sandglass since 2006, when he joined Sandglass Theater’s collaboration with the Cambodian shadow puppet theater Sovannah Phum. He has also performed in Amanda Maddock’s Mrs. Wright’s Escape, Company of Strangers’ Styles Under Sky, and developed a small repertoire of short pieces. He is a certified facilitator of TimeSlips (a creative storytelling method designed to be used with people with dementia and their caregivers), and has been a part of the D-Generation project since its earliest stages.

(1.5 CEUs) Empower & Encourage Through Story Telling
This workshop, based on 2016 MacArthur Fellow award-winning Anne Bastings’ Timeslips, offers an elegantly simple revolution in elder care by infusing creativity into care relationships and systems. In a time when we deny aging and isolate our elders, TimeSlips provides hope and improves well-being through creativity and meaningful connection. Timeslips creative approaches are used in care communities, museums, libraries, senior centers, and individual homes throughout the world. It opens storytelling to everyone by replacing the pressure to remember with the freedom to imagine.
TimeSlips is evidence-based, award-winning, joyful and person-centered. And you can be too!

T HersheyJPGTerry Hershey
Terry Hershey is an author, humorist, inspirational speaker, dad, ordained minister, golf addict, and smitten by French wine. He divides his time between designing sanctuary gardens and sharing his practice of “the power of pause” and “creating sanctuary,” to help us rest, renew and live with intention. Most days, you can find Terry out in his garden–on Vashon Island in the Puget Sound—because he believes that there is something fundamentally spiritual about dirt under your fingernails.

Caring for Your Client (and Yourself) with Dignity!
(1.5 CEUs) Care of any kind—compassion, generosity, communication, reconciliation, service, ministry, teaching, giving—begins with and is nourished by self-care. Or in the words of Charlie Parker, “If it ain’t in you it can’t come out of your horn.” Care—creating a space with dignity—begins with the intentional choices we make about being present. About passion, grace, play, laughter and wholeheartedness. We make space to see and to be seen. We make space to welcome, to offer comfort and hope.

D HaackDavid Haack
Vice President, Sales and Marketing for Living Care Lifestyles
Founder of the Northwest LGBT Senior Care Providers Network

For over 30 years David has been an active part of the Long Term Continuum. His Experiences range from Skilled Nursing and Compliance Management, to Pharmacy Automation and delivery pharmaceutical, as well as Assisted Living marketing and Sales Management. During his tenor in the industry, he has always been committed to provided LGBT competency and education in all Long Term settings, and seven years ago started the NW LGBT Senior care Providers Network.

Providing LGBT Competent Care

You will gain a better understanding of the specific challenges that many of members of the LGBT Community face, as they begin to make decisions around securing housing and provision of care while living the best quality of life. You will walk away with practical knowledge of the sensitivity required to be in tune to the challenges not faced by many of their heterosexual counterparts. Learn to provide welcoming spaces and use appropriate language in your materials and training.

Shawn In the Roses - CopyShawn D’Amelio

Before joining With a Little Help, Shawn worked as a private care manager for a client with Alzheimer’s disease. This experience, as well as her ongoing journey with her own mother’s having dementia led her to With a Little Help where she enjoys working with a team of caring professionals dedicated to providing excellent care with the personal touch she values. Shawn enjoys the process of bringing resources and people together, creating relationships that give peace of mind to families and their loved ones. In her role as the Director of Business Development she is guiding growth while keeping With a Little Help’s vision in sight, making sure that every client and employee is treated with respect and dignity.
Education being a passion for Shawn, she serves as Vice President for the Washington Home Care Association and after serving as chair for the statewide conference Blooming with the Boomers she has now turned over the reins and is now happily the Co-Chair. Shawn also serves on the EvergreenHealth Seasons of Hope Fundraising Committee which raises money to support their Palliative Care and Hospice Programs. Shawn proudly sits on the steering committee for The Art of Alzheimer’s.

N EtienneNikki Etienne
Nikki Etienne is the Client Care Manager at Home Instead Senior Care in Tacoma. Her experience is extensive, having grown up in industry. So Nikki has seen a lot. Her intention is to make sure each client has just the right caregiver in the home and encourages her caregivers to think outside the box to give them the best opportunity to connect with their clients.

(Fun & useful only, no CEU) Watch’ya Got In Your Trunk?
Shawn & Nikki will tag team on this fun topic! Are you prepared for every client every time? What do you always take with you? Running out of ideas for clients? Wish you could be a little more creative or change it up with your clients every now and then? Then come to Watchya Got In Your Trunk and we’ll see if you got the right stuff or if you could use some more items in your car.

J Maher

Joanne Maher, MSW, joined the Alzheimer’s Association, Washington State Chapter, in 2006. She holds a Masters in Social Work from the University of Washington. Joanne has 20 years of professional experience working with diverse adult populations in different settings. As Director of Programs and Services at the Chapter, she leads a team of professionals in 6 departments that work directly with families, friends, and relatives of persons experiencing memory loss, as well as those individuals with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Ms. Maher works closely with academic communities, government agencies, and other social service providers throughout the State.

In addition to her work at the Alzheimer’s Association, Joanne serves on a number of community-based committees, and is actively involved in the planning of a several yearly conferences related to dementia, aging, and caregiving issues.
(1 CEU) The Basics: Memory Loss, Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
Is dementia a normal part of aging? What is the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia? This class will answer these questions and cover the basics, including risk factors, diagnosis, stages of Alzheimer’s, treatments, and resources. We will also discuss the benefits of early detection.
The one-hour class briefly reviews risk factors, types of dementia, and how the brain is affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

D OilandDonna Oiland

A certified laugh leader with the World Laughter Tour, Donna is skilled at creating great workshops for Cancer Lifeline, Swedish Hospital and EvergreenHealth. Training hospice volunteers for EvergreenHealth Hospice is a passion. Donna is a longtime member of the steering committee of the Washington End of Life Coalition an ad hoc committee of the Washington State Medical Association. She sits on Board of Directors of the Faith Community Nurses and Health Ministers Northwest and speaks for the Northwest Christian Speakers Bureau as well as the Snohomish County Health Leadership Coalition and is a trained facilitator with Honoring Choices PNW, an initiative of the Washington State Medical Association and the Washington State Hospital Association.

(0.5 CEU) The Serious Subject of Laughter
In a society where our right to the pursuit of happiness it appears to have become an obsession and the mindset of “hurry, worry, more, bigger, and faster” seems to occupy our thoughts, the subject of laughter and its benefits are often overlooked. We have been told that laughter is the best medicine but, unlike our commitment to take medication it is often left out of our daily routines. How do we change that?

S McLaughlin
Sally McLaughlin MA, is the Executive Director for End of Life of Washington and travels the state giving presentations on the many services provided by the non-profit organization: the Advance Directive for Health Care, the Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia Mental Health Advance Directive, Washington State’s Death With Dignity Law, as well as a wide array of end-of-life choices.

(1 CEU) Cultural Perspectives on Death

Sally will provide an overview of dominant versus non-dominant cultural perspectives on death and dying. She will examine how these attitudes impact patients’ families, caregivers, and medical personnel intimately involved in patient care. The importance of language in the death and dying process, how anticipatory grief is expressed and addressed, and cultural sensitivities to the patient’s situational awareness and end-of-life wishes are among the pertinent topics we will explore.

K PetersonKavan Peterson

A journalist, entrepreneur and long-term care reform advocate, Kavan is co-founder and director of Dr. Bill Thomas’ ChangingAging Blog and Tour and president of Montana-based Harvest Home Care.

Kavan has worked on the cutting-edge of long-term care culture change with leading companies such as Amazon, AARP, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and The Green House Project. By tapping inter-generational wisdom, his innovative approaches to community building are revolutionizing home and community based services.

(1 CEU) Unleashing Your Potential on a Care Team
Do you sometimes feel isolated and alone in the world of caring? Wishing you had better tools to coordinate and collaborate with?
Discover and overcome by tapping into and unleashing the collective intelligence of the entire carepartner team, including care managers, social workers, staff and clients. This participatory workshop will introduce you to a simple set of tools to do exactly that.

R Crichton
Rebecca Crichton, Executive Director of Northwest Center for Creative Aging (NWCCA) has facilitated groups and workshops related to Positive Psychology and Creative Aging for many venues in the Seattle area. She has Master’s degrees in Child Development and Organizational Development and is a Certified Coach. She retired after 21 years at Boeing for 21 years as a writer, facilitator and curriculum designer. Heading up NWCCA is her ‘Encore’ Career.

(1 CEU) Happiness Is An Inside Job
Findings from research in Positive Psychology and Neuroscience demonstrate that positivity, gratitude and kindness are good for our health and well-being. We will learn some of the tips and tools researchers have shown can make us feel hopeful, happy and satisfied. While we each have a unique path to achieving well-being, we can learn from each other and share what works. And here’s a hint: learning and sharing are essentials for your happiness toolbox!

L A Kister

Lynn Ann Kister
Lynn Ann Kister has been a caregiver at With A Little Help for the past 8 years. For the past two years, she has been a certified Positive Approach to Care Trainer. Positive Approach to Care is a dementia care training method developed by the Occupational Therapist, Teepa Snow. Lynn Ann is also a professional writer & a landscaper. She enjoys singing & meditating in her spare time. She resides in Seattle with her husband, Michael Davis.

(1 CEU) Successful Approaches for People Living with Dementia
Participants will learn vital tools to successfully & skillfully approach people living with dementia. They will learn how to incorporate Teepa Snow’s Hand under Hand© and Positive Physical Approach© into their daily routine with clients living with dementia. There will be opportunities to practice these approaches ‘hands on’ during the workshop. There will also be basic education about dementia.


CLICK HERE to Register Today for With a Little Help’s 3rd Annual Conference

Eldercare Mediation

January 23rd, 2017

With a Little Help’s friend and colleague, Don Desonier is, among other wonderful things, an Elder Care Mediation expert who works locally here in Seattle. He recommended this article to us and we thought we’d share it with you.

Don Desonier Caregiver Coaching and Family Mediation

Elder and Family Mediation Services

by Arline Kardasis and Blair Trippe

What happens when seniors face major life transitions and their adult children are embroiled in painful and unrelenting conflict? Issues like residence decisions, distribution of caregiving responsibilities, safety and health concerns, wills and estates, the sale of the family home, and more can divide a family for years to come. When communication is difficult and critical decisions are put on hold, families may need the help of a skilled mediator to get them “unstuck” so they can move forward.

What Is Elder Mediation?

Elder mediation provides a forum for family decision-making. It is private, confidential and completely voluntary. Mediators facilitate a purposeful and directed conversation in which family members are encouraged to express their interests and concerns. Meetings are informal and are held in locations which meet the family’s needs, including private homes, mediators’ offices and senior living facilities. The mediator is a highly skilled conflict resolution expert and a neutral facilitator who does not provide advice or “takes sides” in these discussions. The goals of mediation are twofold. First to allow families to create workable and mutually acceptable solutions to their difficult disputes and second to develop communication strategies to enable them to successfully work together to make important decisions in the future.

Why Families Choose Mediation

In mediation, people deal with the problems and issues under dispute in a timely fashion and in privacy. It is a cooperative rather than an adversarial process, so participants are often able to repair their strained relationships. Because family members develop their own solutions, which reflect their family’s unique situation, satisfaction with the outcome is quite high and these resolutions tend to be workable and long lasting.
Some family disputes reach the point where litigation proceedings have begun or have been threatened. By employing mediation, families are able to keep their conflict out of a courtroom. Courts take control away from those who need to be involved in crafting the solution. Courts are not charged with developing creative options that can leave all parties feeling heard and satisfied. Because a judge makes decisions based only on his or her interpretation of applicable laws, court decisions often are not satisfactory to anyone in the family and are therefore less likely to endure.

Furthermore, due to the adversarial nature of litigation, courtroom proceedings can destroy already fragile relationships. Accordingly, when families go to court, even the “winners” often lose. In mediation, family members can control both the process and the outcome rather than leaving it in the hands of attorneys and judges. And it means that all family members can be heard. In addition, because the parties control the process, in most cases mediation is significantly less costly than litigation both emotionally and in terms of time and money.

Early Intervention Is Best

Issues related to aging parents are as varied as families themselves. Despite this uniqueness, there are similar financial, legal, and medical decisions that need to be made. These include, but are not limited to caregiving, trusts, wills, health care proxies, and housing choices. Too often these issues are avoided, disagreed upon, and/or ignored, resulting in fewer choices, financial loss, and emotional turmoil for the individual and family. While by no means easy, working through these challenges with an elder mediator can be a real opportunity for families to preserve financial and familial well being.

Mediation isn’t simply an alternative to litigation, a “last resort” forum without the lawyers. Elder mediation is just as effective, and often more effective, at the beginning of the decision-making process – when people are fact finding, struggling with options and discovering feelings about their parents, their siblings or other family members that well up and make clear thinking difficult. The process of mediation allows families to develop creative solutions to challenges in a way that the courts cannot. For courts rarely have the time or resources to explore options that would reflect the best interests of the senior while avoiding protracted family conflict. And mediation is efficient. No long-drawn-out proceedings followed by potential appeals and more proceedings…all the while damaging the family, upsetting the senior, and draining finances

And early intervention is always best, before the family is in crisis. When an important family discussion is needed about a developing major life transition, a trained third party neutral can simply convene a family meeting to create the space for everyone to be heard. This type of meeting can strengthen family ties and enable all family members to deal with the changing nature of their relationships and the realities of their situation. It allows family dynamics, including sibling rivalries, to be addressed at a time when everyone is calm and thoughtful decision-making can occur.

It should be noted that these family meetings often involve not just family members but appropriate professionals like lawyers, geriatric care managers and financial planners. These professionals are encouraged to attend as their expertise, coupled with their insights into the family’s needs, is usually very helpful.

Disputes Among Adult Siblings

Often, as family members age, family dynamics can become more entrenched and complicated. Conflicts that may have simmered below the surface can boil up and make family conversations very difficult. Siblings, dealing with differences in their own geographic, economic and family situations often find working together challenging and they may have spouses who hold strong views of their own. Thoughtful decision-making can seem all but impossible.
Elder mediators are aware of the stresses and challenges which often arise among siblings when aging parents face inevitable life transitions. Caregiver burnout and inheritance issues are common in families and require difficult conversations. Health, financial and caregiving concerns are serious issues demanding that all family members weigh in with their views. As family members seek to equitably share the burdens and resources of the family, their individual perceptions of fairness are critical and must be aired and considered in a collaborative setting. Families sometimes decide to include spouses and other influential parties in some or all of these conversations.
In mediation, siblings are often able to reach consensus around these and other difficult issues. As a result of the mediation process, they often find that they develop successful communication systems which allow them to successfully address future decisions as a family.

Financial Decisions – How Money Will Be Spent/Invested and Who Will Be Involved

Finances are a part of most family disputes. However, many adult siblings have never spoken about family finances with their parents as this conversation has always been off-limits. Now these families are faced with critical decisions regarding ongoing expenses for a parent’s daily living, housing, medical needs and caregiving along with all the extras that crop up. And there are serious decisions to be made about housing, investments, tax planning, insurance, and major assets. Some adult children may have skills and experience in financial matters while others may be fearful or overwhelmed by the complexities of these issues.

In situations where seniors decide to designate a Power of Attorney, they often select either the “favorite child,” the one who has been most successful financially, or the one who has been seen to be most attentive to their needs. This choice may cause resentment and conflict among adult siblings.

In mediation, families are often able to discuss finances for the first time. Delicate conversations can be managed by an experienced mediator who is attuned to the sensitive nature of these discussions. If expert advice is needed to determine the best way to manage expenses, investments, taxes, etc, a financial planner or CPA can be invited to join the conversation or can be contacted by family members outside of the mediation.

Residence Decisions

Changes in housing bring up numerous issues. For many seniors, facing the decision to leave their home can be immobilizing. For one woman and her family, the initial decision was made for her to remain at home and hire a part time home health aide. Eventually, this became more expensive due to her changing physical needs and her greater dependence on the aide. While meeting with her financial planner, she explored the question of remaining in her home versus moving. He laid out some of the options and costs, and it became clear that her financial needs would be better served by selling her home and moving to an assisted living facility. Despite this, she made the choice to stay in her home. Meanwhile, her family was growing increasingly concerned about her medical and financial needs. Each time they tried to speak with her about her moving to an assisted living facility, a disagreement would ensue and again the decision would be put off.

Eventually, the family became so concerned that they sought the help of an elder mediator in order to convene a family meeting. The mediator suggested that a geriatric care manager join their discussion in order to advise the family about community resources and housing options. At the meeting, the mother and her adult children were finally able to have a productive, comprehensive and creative conversation. As a family, they crafted a successful plan for her move to a nearby assisted living facility. This decision satisfied everyone’s needs and concerns.

Selling the House or Other Valuable Assets

Selling a treasured family home or heirlooms can involve very complicated decision making. When siblings are in different economic circumstances these decisions can be even harder. Insecurities, family dynamics and financial needs can interfere with what is considered “fair.” When families have real estate, artwork, jewelry, or antiques of significant commercial or sentimental value, strong emotions are likely to come into play when the disposition of such treasures is discussed.
When one couple decided to leave their summer house to all four siblings to share, they thought they were doing a wonderful thing – insuring that all could keep their happy memories and create more for their children and grandchildren. The reality, however, did not coincide with the vision. One sibling, the younger son, did not have the money to pay his share of the taxes and maintenance. The elder daughter lived far away, had her own summer home, and had no interest in keeping the house. The younger daughter was thrilled to keep the house and frequently use it with her children. The other son, who had no children, was dissatisfied with the situation because it seemed that whenever he wanted to use the house, he found that his sister was there with her kids and their friends. The sister who wanted to keep the house did not have enough money to buy-out the others. If they went to court, the house most likely would end up sold and relations between the siblings would be inexorably damaged. Through mediation they were able to come-up with a plan to share time, costs and get some rental income in a way that was deemed fair by all and preserved their relationships and those of their children.

Inheritance Disputes

It is the hope of every parent that, after they are gone, their children and grandchildren will remain close and provide love and support for one another. Looming estate battles can threaten this dream. The best time for families to work out such issues is before these battles become a reality. And Elder Mediation can provide a safe setting for these highly flammable conversations. With the help of an elder mediator, adult siblings and their aging parents can, together, find ways to create a plan that reflects the parents’ values and “fairly” distributes their estate while protecting familial bonds.

In one family, the parents and their adult children began to have informal family discussions regarding estate planning and inheritance matters. Together, they reviewed their major assets, including a second home, stocks, and considerable savings. The children disagreed with each other and their parents on how to divide the assets and decided to contact their parents’ lawyer. The lawyer then informed his clients, the parents, that their children had contacted him and that they had questioned the soundness of their parents’ decisions. This hurt and angered the parents, causing them to terminate all discussions without creating any estate plan. From here, other costly conflicts and delays arose until one of the children contacted a mediator. With the help of a skilled mediator, trained to deal with such disputes, this family was able to have several important conversations about their individual needs. They were ultimately able to mend their relationships and put into place a sound financial plan that satisfactorily addressed everyone’s interests.

Everyone acknowledges that contested wills are among the most dreaded of court battles…and they can go on for years often draining the pool of assets that are under dispute. Yet, adult siblings often have strong feelings about how their parents ought to bequeath their estate and these feelings are often in conflict with some or all of their siblings. A daughter who has been the primary caregiver for her father may feel that he should recognize her efforts in his will. A son who has had financial or medical setbacks may want some extra security beyond that provided for his wealthier siblings. In families where parents have contributed to the costs of some of their children’s or grandchildren’s education, home purchases, or weddings other family members may feel that they should be “made whole’ in some way. While one or both parents are still living, they may be burdened with the awful challenge of figuring out how to create a “fair” estate plan that honors all family members and indicates their equal love for each one of their heirs. This is no easy task, especially when mom and dad are subjected to lobbying efforts by some of their adult children or grandchildren. A skilled elder mediator can navigate the treacherous waters of such complex and emotionally volatile discussions.

Medical Treatment Decisions

It is often not clear what the best medical route is for a particular senior. Sometimes siblings differ in their views on what would be “best” or what the senior would “want.” In these cases, mediators can help all family members articulate their interests and fears in a safe, private setting. All parties have a voice at the table where expert medical advice can be shared and reviewed, concerns can be voiced and options can be discussed in a calm, non-threatening setting.


Sometimes one daughter or son sees something their parent can no longer handle as a sign that they no longer can handle anything. They then decide that they must take control of all the elder’s activities by means of a guardianship. What often happens as people age, however, is that there is an inability to handle certain aspects of life while others are fine. For example, a senior who is threatened with foreclosure may be perfectly capable of living alone and scheduling his activities but needs help with bill paying. Mediation can give that elder the opportunity to show his children that he does not need restrictions but just a little help. This type of family meeting can prevent or limit unnecessary guardianships.

Post-Appointment Decisions (Guardianship)

Even if a court approves a petition for guardianship, the family conflicts may not end. Mediation can be very helpful to family members dealing with the day-to-day needs and ongoing decisions after guardianship has been established. Mediators can help the guardian or ancillary caregivers to cope with unexpected situations and/or unanticipated needs.

When is Elder Mediation Appropriate? When Is It Not Appropriate?

Mediation is an appropriate means to resolve any conflict where the parties voluntarily participate in the process and are motivated to reach a settlement. Elder mediation helps families to successfully grapple with issues such as caregiving for aging parents, estate disputes, safety and health concerns, and decisions regarding the family home and the best place for parents to live. A core value of Elder mediation is the protection of the rights and integrity of seniors. Elder mediators act as neutrals but look to families to consider ways to maximize their senior’s independence whenever possible. Mediation is not appropriate and will not be allowed to continue if the mediator finds that there is coercion, abuse or neglect. In cases where the elder has cognitive impairment or other limitations in his or her ability to fully understand and participate in decision-making, the mediator will insist that an appropriate advocate for the elder (such as an attorney, a social worker, or a geriatric care manager) be present for all conversations and participate in all decisions which would impact the senior.

Looking into the Future

The practice of elder mediation is growing in response to changing demographics. The average middle aged adult now has more parents and in-laws than children. And as these baby boomers age and government resources diminish, more and more of the responsibilities of eldercare will fall upon families. Given these realities, most families will eventually be facing the kinds of challenges and stresses which can lead to conflict and create obstacles to reasoned decision-making. Over the last twenty-five years, the public has increasingly embraced divorce mediation as the most reasonable means of resolving the issues surrounding the dissolution of marriage and now elder mediation is rapidly becoming known as a vital resource for aging families and the professionals who work with them.

Don’t Miss WALH’s 2nd Annual Care Conference!

March 7th, 2016

care conf

THANK YOU to everyone who attended and participated in this event. Your efforts made this a wonderful conference. With A Little Help is proud to present and participate in many events throughout the year. Want to stay informed? See our calendar  and/or “like” us on Facebook.


Are you a caregiver, care manager, or professional that works with older adults? Are you caring for a parent or partner? With A Little Help’s 2nd annual Care Conference is packed with valuable resources and information. Workshops are affordable and led by many of Seattle’s best authorities on topics ranging from End of Life Decisions to Geriatric Oral Health. Want basic tips on Dementia care or the nitty gritty on low vision aids? Looking for ways to stem those scam phone calls or tips for saving your back during transfers? This conference’s workshops offer great speakers presenting pragmatic strategies for anyone engaged in caregiving or serving older adults. Join us Wednesday and Thursday March 9 and 10 at the North Seattle Community College campus for a few laughs and lots of great information. Read the rest of this entry »

Family Caregiving Tips For Happier Holidays

December 22nd, 2015

If you’re reading this blog chances are you’re a professional or family caregiver. You know how difficult holidays can be. They impact both the caregiver and the one needing care differently but each usually feel added stress. Planning ways to ease the stress is as important as planning a holiday meal or gifts to exchange. This year, as 12% of Washington families prepare to celebrate with someone who has dementia or a serious illness, helping organizations are gearing up to guide families in ways to make the holidays easier and more inclusive for loved ones in their care.

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Family Caregivers Share Challenges and Coping Skills

December 15th, 2015

Are you a family caregiver? I am. In fact, With A Little Help’s average staff age is 51 so several of our professional caregivers and office staff members also have family caregiving experience. Understanding both situations strengthens empathy for the natural differences in perspective of client and client’s family. I originally conceived of this blog, featuring the challenges and coping mechanisms of four family caregivers, because I was curious about the issues other people encounter in family caregiving and I hoped to gain understanding that would help all readers caring for a loved one. What I found was that these narratives helped me as much in my professional caregiving career as they have in the care of my own mother. I hope you enjoy these four honest and inspiring stories.

andrewAndrew Cohen, of Coho Accounting, provides care for his mother. His biggest challenge was preparing emotionally for her journey into dementia. A bright, resourceful and independent spirit, his mother learned she had Parkinson’s 12 1/2 years ago but kept it in abeyance for 9 years during which Andrew was able to prepare himself for Parkinson’s inevitable physical progressions.  Not all Parkinson’s patients develop dementia but when Andrew’s mother started experiencing symptoms it put added stress on their ability to negotiate her care and, at times, strained their communication. Where does he turn for support? “I try to remember the good times,” Andrew told me. He also receives important guidance from a dear friend who is a hospice nurse and talks to friends about their own family caregiving situations…his “ad hoc support group.”  Most remarkably, he founded his business, Coho Accounting, as a result of his experience with his mother’s need for fiduciary support. He works now with client families going through situations similar to his own. What has he learned? Three main things: Really listen. Don’t disagree with your mother (or with anyone experiencing dementia). Be willing to have difficult and honest conversations. Read the rest of this entry »

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