Many families reach a point when they recognize that an older relative needs more than occasional assistance. When a family member is the best one to provide full-time care, a written agreement may be the best way to clarify expectations and avoid conflict.
The person providing care for a loved one often must give up a job and employment benefits. A formal agreement may provide a way to compensate a family caregiver who can no longer hold other employment.
While most family members may wish to help care for a loved one, it is a job with heavy time commitments and responsibilities. Putting the details of the care relationship in writing is one way to protect both the caregiver and the person receiving care. This binding agreement is referred to as a “personal care agreement.”
What Is a Personal Care Agreement?
The agreement is a contract, typically between a family member who agrees to provide caregiver services for a disabled or aging relative and the person receiving care. The personal care agreement is most commonly between an adult child and his/her parent, but may involve other relatives, such as grandchild or a niece or nephew.
Drawing up an agreement clarifies what tasks are expected in return for a stated compensation. It may help avoid family conflicts about who will provide care and how much money will change hands. For this reason, the agreement should be discussed with other family members to resolve any concerns before an agreement is drafted.
When contracting with a family member, it is wise to treat the agreement as a legal document. If your relative is receiving any state assistance, the agreement will show the state where the money is going and for what kind of services. In addition, a caregiver agreement may offset potential confusion among family members concerned about bequests to heirs, and avoid misunderstandings later over the reduction of the amount of money that may be inherited.
Components of a Personal Care Agreement
A personal care agreement has three basic requirements for a person to pay a family member for care:
- The agreement must be in writing.
- The payment must be for care provided in the future (not for services already performed).
- Compensation for care must be reasonable. This means tasks performed should match “reasonable” or “customary” fees typically paid to a third party for the same care in your geographic area.
A properly drafted personal care agreement will contain the following information:
- Date the care begins
- Detailed description of services to be provided–e.g.,“transportation and errands” or “meal preparation”
- How often services will be provided (use flexible language such as, “no less than 20 hours a week” or “up to 80 hours a month”)
- How much and how often the caregiver will be compensated
- How long the agreement is to be in effect (such as one year, or the duration of the care recipient’s life)
- The location where services will be provided (allow for the location to change if care needs require it)
- A statement that the terms of the agreement may be modified only by mutual agreement of all parties in writing
- Signatures of all parties and date of the agreement
Do I Need a Lawyer?
You don’t necessarily need to hire an attorney, but it may be advisable when entering into a contractual relationship. It depends on how complex an agreement your family requires.
Be sure the care recipient has created a legal document to appoint a power of attorney who will make decisions in the event he or she is no longer able to do so. This should not be the family member who is being compensated for providing care.
A legal agreement template is available through nolo.com: https://store.nolo.com/products/elder-care-agreement.html/
This article was reworked from a more extensive discussion of the topic at the Caregiver’s Alliance:
—By Caren Parnes
Contributor for The Senior’s Choice