An article in today’s Wall Street Journal provides an overview of Elder Mediation that may be interesting to readers of this blog. According to the article, Elder Mediation is taking off as a profession “as baby boomers seek help with aging parents.”

From the article, I derived a good, one sentence description of what Elder Mediators do:

Rather than offering advice, Elder Mediators help clients, who are usually adult children, resolve conflicts that arise over a variety of issues regarding older adults, such as those over inheritances and caregiving responsibilities, by facilitating conversations and helping the parties get past impasses.

Interestingly, the author discusses how the Elder Mediation process can vary by focusing on the different methods used by two elder mediators in achieving the successful resolution of family conflict. One elder mediator initially meets with each family member privately to discuss the dispute, and then continues to speak privately with the family until the conflict is resolved. The other practitioner meets with all members of the family, including the older adult, at the same table and works together with the entire family present to resolve the problem. Both methods are described as effective.

The Journal article cites several advantages of Elder Mediation over litigation. Costs are usually much lower than litigation. The process is confidential. And the Elder Mediation process is less damaging to family relationships than litigation.

Finally, the article cautions that the Elder Mediation field is largely unregulated. As a result, prospective mediators should be carefully vetted. The author recommends “asking for referrals from trusted advisers, such as elder law attorneys.”

My colleagues and I at the Elder Mediation Center of New Jersey have worked to increase public awareness of the Elder Mediation field, giving particular attention to the use of mediation to  resolve disputes in New Jersey, and we are happy to share this article with you.

The WSJ article can be found here – Elder Mediator – Referee for Family Disputes