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Jax Daily Record Monday, May 30, 201612:00 PM EST

'Eldercaring' plan starts in 8 circuits

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by: The Florida Bar Staff Writer

What happens when mama is sick and dying, but her two daughters can’t agree on how to care for her, and their rift explodes to the point it’s harmful to mama?

There’s a new tool called “eldercaring coordination” now running as pilot projects in eight Florida circuits: the 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 13th, 15th, 17th and 18th.

The 7th Circuit comprises Flagler, Putnam St. Johns and Volusia counties.

Florida has joined Indiana, Idaho, Ohio and Minnesota in leading the effort to help manage what social workers call “high-conflict family dynamics” so that the vulnerable elder and family members can resolve their differences without litigation.

It is designed not only to make matters easier for the families and the elders, it also frees judges from micromanaging non-legal decisions that should be made by family members.

The concept is the brainchild of Linda Fieldstone, supervisor of Family Court Services in the 11th Circuit, who has worked for 25 years with parents and their children.

She was familiar with statutes and administrative rules that created “parenting coordination” to help parents of young children in high-conflict situations. She applied the same concept with children and their elderly parents, considering the number of baby boomers reaching 65 is projected to double from 2008 to 2030.

Fieldstone brought her idea to the Florida Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, when its president was Sandy Karlan, a retired 11th Circuit administrative family court judge.

“It makes sense that where there is conflict in families, it’s always better to try to resolve that conflict without litigation. So this made sense to take a tool working for families with children and see if it could be adapted to work with children and their parents,” she said.

Karlan appointed Fieldstone and 5th Circuit Judge Michelle Morley as co-chairs of a task force that led to the pilots. They convened a group of 20 statewide organizations including The Florida Bar Elder Law Section and Florida Legal Services.

Working with the Association for Conflict Resolution, their mission was to create eldercaring coordination that focuses on reducing the level of conflict so family members are better able to focus on the issues of their elder and work with others to provide health care, legal advice, advance directives, guidance, and planning.

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