Caring for mum - case study
The initial problem
When Bianca could no longer live independently, it raised some difficult questions for her family about aged care.
The family used a formal mediation process to develop an agreement around living and financial arrangements for their mother, which made everyone feel more secure.
The full story
Bianca was an 83-year-old woman who had been living independently for many years after her husband passed away. She was starting to find the family home difficult to maintain, especially after she had a fall and injured her wrist.
Bianca had two children, but her eldest, Mary, had moved to Geelong, while her son, Joe, lived on the other side of Melbourne.
Joe was finding it difficult to visit his mother regularly because of the demands of his two young children. He suggested that his mother sell her house and use the money to build an extension on his house, where she could live and be closer to her grandchildren.
Bianca was concerned about the financial impact of selling her house, so she saw a lawyer who advised that she should be very clear about the details of this arrangement. Once she had sold her principal asset, it would be very hard to reverse the situation if things didn’t work out.
Although they were not in a dispute, the lawyer suggested she and her family have a ‘family meeting’ run by a Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria facilitator.
The mediation process
Bianca spoke to one of the Dispute Settlement Centre’s Dispute Assessment Officers who then contacted her children to organise a time for the family to meet. Some of the issues the facilitator helped them explore in the meeting were the impact of the sale of the house, and whether Bianca’s investment in her son’s house was intended as a gift or as an investment.
They talked about possible arrangements should Bianca’s health deteriorate, as well as living arrangements, such as their mutual expectations in terms of housework, gardening and helping to look after her grandchildren.
At the end of the meeting it was agreed that Joe would provide ongoing care for his mother in exchange for the money she would invest in his house. The family members received a detailed written agreement and they left the meeting satisfied the issues had been resolved.