Elder Mediation – You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know. Family – Part 1 of 5

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Hi, my name is Julie Gill and I’m a mediator. (You can picture me standing in a room during at a support meeting can’t you? haha)  I run a private practice called Families First Mediation.

Each day I go to my office and think – How will I build my mediation empire? Mediators can help so many if more people just knew about what we did. I am trained in divorce, workplace, community and restorative justice, where is the next frontier? Where will mediation emerge next to help me grow my empire?

eldermediation part 1

Wait! There is a great deal of talk about baby boomers, the sandwich generation, aging and elder abuse, perhaps I have my answer – Elder Mediation.

I have a great deal of life experience and I really am devoted to helping families. I work with families that have conflict…period. I don’t differentiate what type of conflict, I can help I’m sure of it.

I am a big supporter of actually knowing how to do something before I say that I can do it. I would think that families appreciate this quality in a mediator.  It doesn’t always happen in our industry though, I’ll speak to that issue later.

After some research I find out that I can register for training in order to learn how to help families in these particular conflict situations…those with age related issues. Off to training I go. Bright eyed and bushy tailed.

What I Didn’t know

As it was explained to me by my trainer; after many hours of training,”Julie, on that first day when you came in to training, you didn’t know what you didn’t know about mediation with age related issues (or Elder Mediation as it’s often referred to) and it was obvious”.

Timing is everything. Now had I heard that on that first day I may have argued that with old stand by…“a mediator, is a mediator, is a mediator” but for some reason – I guess I was intuitive enough to know – that this mediation WAS different. I didn’t know how or why Elder Mediation was different, but I knew it was different.

What is different?

As the light started coming on and the darkness (that I didn’t know was there remember) began to recede I started to see this mediation; unlike other types of mediation, was not all about process and expected results. It was about the families pure and simple. What did they need? How could I help facilitate that? How could I make this a positive experience for them?

This series tries to outline some of the ‘What you don’t know CAN hurt you’ areas that are different about this type of mediation.

Family is part 1 in the series

Now when I say family I mean anyone that the family considers family. Not necessarily only blood relations – it can include friends, people who help care for the family or have a vested interest in the success of the family as a whole or any member of that family.

If we are talking about family we know that we have a family history, we have family dynamics, we have high conflict personalities, we have power imbalances, we have unmet expectations, unacknowledged emotions and family roles to manage if we are going to be successful. We also have a lot more people in the room than in say a traditional divorce mediation of which my practice had been focused on previously.

Families don’t know what they don’t know either. Families can have difficulty communicating and often assumptions are made based on a variety of different things. Finding out as a family what you don’t know is very valuable.

Family is not a process to be managed. Family is a structure that needs to be respected and cherished, even and especially during crisis. The actual process of managing all of those different personalities in the room and often those included through the magic of technology is a different story all together. Mediators beware…all mediations are not created equally.

Stay tuned for the next in the series, Part 2 Sensitivities.


Julie Gill Q.Med, CDFA

Families First Mediation

Please note that I am a fully trained elder mediator working towards my certification in 2015.



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