Both the Palm Beach County and Broward County circuit court systems are participating with six other Florida circuit courts in elder care pilot programs to examine elder care coordination. Four other states will begin the two-year program with Florida. The elder care pilot programs involve guardianships of seniors and squabbling family members who can’t agree on the best interests of their loved one. In the past they would litigate minor issues and take the court’s time away from more important concerns. With the implementation of the pilot program, South Florida families will have the opportunity to come to resolve their disputes through elder care coordinators who are appointed by the court. The goal is to resolve disputes through discussion rather than litigation.
To be eligible to become an elder care coordinator, the candidates must pass a background check. Professions permitted to be coordinators include but aren’t limited to attorneys, physicians, mental health professionals, family law mediators and professional guardians. They’ll confer with seniors and their families to develop and implement care plans and bring awareness to additional resources available to them. They also have legal authority to enter agreed orders along with other orders on contested issues decided within their authority.
Each court will appoint a minimum of three coordinators who are required to successfully complete training in elder mediation and elder care coordination. Families can elect to participate in the elder care pilot programs, or the court can order them there when it becomes clear that arguments are interfering with the best interests of the family member. Each coordinator will independently set their own compensation rate, but organizers of the program have asked them to use a sliding scale for families who can’t afford their services.
Pennsylvania had a similar program in the context of parenting coordination. It was eliminated as a result of disputes as to who might become a coordinator and the scope of their authority. The Florida organizers believe that they’ve resolved these potential issues with their guidelines.
Given the aging of Florida’s population, the elder care program is a viable option for those involved in disputes regarding aging family members. Estate planning and elder care are issues everybody needs to address sometime before their 30th birthday. Mindy Felinton is compassionate, experienced and highly professional. Call Mindy’s office in Delray Beach at (561)290-2179 for a consultation on your estate planning and elder care questions. Mindy can help.