Older Australians are clearly responding positively to the undeniable and unique appeal that senior living communities are able to offer, such as independence, connection and community, as well as convenience, flexibility, security, enhanced safety and a delayed entry into the aged care system of an average of five years!
It is quite an offering, especially when considering the incredible physical settings being constructed.
Unfortunately, the reality doesn’t always live up to expectations for some residents, which can lead to conflict, either between management and residents or between residents.
How you manage your interactions in the face of a conflict can make all the difference to the length and severity of the dispute, and to the ultimate outcome.
In recent times, the DCM Institute team has been fielding many queries in relation to dealing with disputes within villages so I reached out to my great colleagues at Seniors Living Mediation for some sage advice.
Senior Living Mediation works with operators experiencing disputes, some of which have been long standing, and help the parties to find workable solutions. As a result, they have seen a myriad of dispute situations first hand.
While the circumstances are all individual, the Senior Living Mediation team suggest there are two ingredients that remain constant.
Two constant ingredients in disputes
No.1: nobody wants a dispute. We do not move into a village expecting or wanting a dispute – it arises because someone’s expectations do not align with the reality of the situation.
And, the dispute only escalates where the communication is missing.
No 2: disputes that are left unresolved can become toxic. This affects the culture of the entire community.
As a Village Professional, if you find yourself dealing with a conflict between two residents, the team at Seniors Living Mediation has shared some great practical tips.
First, encourage the residents to liaise together in the first instance, prior to escalating to the Village Manager.
Then if as the Village Manager you find yourself in the position to assist in addressing the conflict, as a quasi-mediator, ensure you:
1. Choose a private location and avoid meeting in either one of the resident’s homes;
2. Set some ground rules:
- seek agreement from the parties that all discussions regarding the matter are to remain confidential and not be spoken about outside of the meeting;
- allow each party time (say 10 minutes) to speak on the issue without interruption and the other party will be afforded time to respond;
3. Remain impartial and neutral;
4. Find any common ground (if there is no common ground apparent, then the common goal to resolve the issue can be used and evidenced by the fact that they both are attending the meeting);
5. Ask the parties to come up with some ideas as to how they see they can resolve their issues;
6. Which of the resolutions are the parties willing to try to resolve the matter;
7. Record the agreement reached in writing and have both parties sign acknowledging the outcomes and agreements made.
As we are all aware, disputes if left unresolved have the potential to cause serious damage to you and your community.
In my personal experience, it is best to seek assistance early if you are dealing with a conflict situation that is not easily resolved. Reach out sooner rather than later to the team at Senior Living Mediation before it escalates.