As I’ve written on other occasions, as life spans increase, the prospects for sibling squabbles over Mom and Dad grow more likely. One growing trend: custody battles involving adult children fighting over where their elderly parents should live, who should care for them and who should control the finances. These family squabbles have given rise to a new preemptive tool: elder mediation. Across the nation, family lawyers and estate planners are turning to mediators to resolve family disputes involving elderly parents. A recent article in the Long Island Business News discusses the growing use of elder mediation to resolve family disputes. The article quotes several practitioners of elder mediation on their practice specialties, including the owner of this weblog:

“It’s just starting to be recognized as a separate discipline,” said Donald D. Vanarelli, an elder lawyer and mediator in Westfield, N.J., and founder of the New Jersey Elder Mediation Center. “The reason I got into it was that I realized I was doing a lot of it as part of my elder law practice,” he said. “So many times, there’s baggage from the past. It’s like the old Smothers Brothers line, ‘Mom always liked you best.’ There are things that linger from decades ago.”

Another practitioner of elder mediation, Carolyn Rodis, an attorney in Maryland, offered a checklist of skills which elder mediators should possess:

First, she said, the mediator should have experience with elder mediation – not just mediation per se. “The issues in elder mediation are just so different and they often involve so many parties,” she said.

Second, the elder mediator should be familiar with relevant legal subjects, such as Medicare/Medicaid and guardianship laws. He or she should also know relevant legal terminology, such as powers of attorney.

Third, she said, a good mediator provides referral sources to related services that participants may need during the process. “The mediator should tell the family that there are issues that may come up and here’s where you can go to deal with them.”

Fourth, “mediators should have a sensitivity to aging itself – the physical and emotional aspects of it.”

The entire article is available at