The purposes of a written personal care agreement and what it should contain
Some older adults are able to pay their family caregiver from private funds, long-term care insurance benefits, or a state-sponsored assistance program.
If you regularly provide paid care to a family member, such as a parent, it's a good idea to prepare a simple, written agreement setting out the terms of your arrangement.
A simple, written personal care agreement (sometimes called a personal services agreement) can help both you and your family member be clear about what you're supposed to be doing and when.
- It can also help avoid misunderstandings with other family members about who's providing care and how much money is changing hands. If the agreement doesn't solve a particular disagreement with family members, you may be able to add something to the document, or change its terms, to address the problem.
- If the person you're caring for is receiving state assistance for in-home care, the agreement can prove to the state exactly where some of the money is going, which the state program might require.
- If the person ever needs to enter a nursing home and wants Medicaid to pay for it, the agreement can show that these payments to you were legitimate, not just an attempt to "hide" funds in order to qualify for Medicaid's services.
What to include in a personal care agreement
A personal care agreement should include the following basic information:
- When the care will begin.
- What tasks you'll perform. Be specific and thorough, but also include the term "or similar tasks to be mutually agreed upon by the parties." This gives you both some flexibility, so that you won't feel like you need to rewrite the agreement every time you change the tasks you perform.
- How often, and for how many hours, you'll provide this care.
- How much you'll be paid, and when the payment will be made.
- How long the agreement will stay in effect. This can be a set time, like six months or a year, after which you can both decide whether you want to make any changes. It may be simpler, though, to make the contract open-ended, described with a phrase such as, "This agreement shall remain in force until terminated in writing by either party." In that case, either of you can end the arrangement at any time simply by writing a signed, dated note saying that the agreement is over, and giving the note to the other person.
- A statement that the terms of the agreement can be changed only by mutual agreement, in writing, by both parties.
Drawing up a personal care agreement yourself or using a lawyer
You can probably draw up the agreement yourself, without paying for a lawyer. A good model, along with clear, easy-to-follow explanations, is the Elder Care Agreement (Form 85) in the book 101 Law Forms for Personal Use by Ralph Warner and Robin Leonard (Nolo), which is available in both hard copy and electronic versions. Once you have a version of the agreement that both of you are comfortable with, make several copies. You and your family member should both sign and date two copies, each of you keeping one.
If you feel more comfortable having a lawyer draw up the agreement rather than doing it yourself, discuss the terms of the agreement with your family member before seeing the lawyer. That will make the process quicker and therefore less expensive. If you do use a lawyer, it shouldn't take more than a couple of hours of the lawyer's time.
A personal care agreement can change to fit new circumstances
You can change a personal care agreement at any time. To make a change, both of you have to agree. If you both want to make a change, simply write a note explaining the change -- more or less pay, more or fewer hours, different tasks -- with both of you signing and dating the note, and attach it to the original contract. Or if you find that you both want a number of things to be different, you can draw up an entirely new agreement. If you do draft a new contract, include the phrase "This agreement supersedes all previous agreements between the parties having to do with personal care."