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Her company mediates for elders

End of life choices are hard for anyone. Add in family disputes and they become nearly impossible.

As of Jan. 1, local business, Shared Solutions, takes on this difficult task.

Owned by River Falls resident, Kris Ainsworth, Shared Solutions is a mediation firm that specializes in elder mediation.

"I have a strong passion to enable elders to have a voice," Ainsworth said.

Ainsworth says her goal is to "allow them (family members) to think things through and process it. If they do that they make wise choices."

Emotions run high, and it's her job as an impartial third party to facilitate the situation.

The biggest issue in these situations is the lack of good communication.

"They love each other," Ainsworth said, "but we shut down when we don't hear what we want to hear."

According to Ainsworth, we need to communicate, listen and respect. "I always ask an elder -- Are you happy right now?"

As an advocate for elders, Ainsworth employs many different methods to bridge the communication gap. She has Skyped family members in, used talking sticks, talking circles, anything to get everyone involved.

A lot of people have asked Ainsworth what to do if it's too late to speak to an elder. She suggests talking with those close to the elder.

"Elders tend to give little pieces to everyone," she said, "at least by blending, you will give them some respect."

Money seems to be a sticking point for a lot of elders in dealing with these issues. That's why Ainsworth uses a sliding fee scale.

"I'll give everything away for free," she joked, "I really just want people to pay what they can afford."

According to Ainsworth, "An elder is someone who needs care. If you need care, we can help you."

For more information about Shared Solutions mediation, contact Kris Ainsworth at 715-441-6837.

Pick up the Jan. 19 print edition of the Journal for more on Shared Solutions.

Jillian Dexheimer

Jillian Dexheimer has been a copy editor and reporter for the River Falls Journal since 2011. She previously worked for the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Dexheimer holds a sociology degree from UW-River Falls.