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Many families reach a point when they recognize that an ill or older relative needs more than occasional assistance—they need full-time care. But who will provide that care? The answer is usually close to home: an adult child. A child might be the default choice, or is selected because he or she lives closer or has fewer family responsibilities.

The person providing care for a loved one may make a significant sacrifice, such as giving up a job and employment benefits. A formal agreement among family members can provide a way to compensate a person providing care if he or she is no longer able to 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. One way of protecting the caregiver as well as the person receiving care is by putting the care relationship in writing. This binding agreement is most often 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 other relatives may be involved, such as an adult grandchild caring for a grandparent.

Drawing up an agreement clarifies for a family what tasks are expected in return for a stated compensation. It can 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 state supported in-home care, the agreement will show the state where the money is going and for what kind of services. In addition, a caregiver agreement can 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.

A personal care agreement has three basic requirements for a person to pay a family member for care:

  1. The agreement must be in writing.
  2. The payment must be for care provided in the future (not for services already performed).
  3. 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, for example, “transportation and errands” (driving to medical, dental, adult day care, and other appointments) or “food preparation”; how often services will be provided (allow for flexibility in care needs by using language such as, “no less than 20 hours a week” or “up to 80 hours a month”); how much and when the caregiver will be compensated (weekly or biweekly); how long the agreement is to be in effect (the agreement should set a time, such as a year or two years, or even over a person’s lifetime); a statement that the terms of the agreement can be modified only by mutual agreement of the parties in writing; the location where services are to be provided (the senior’s home, the caregiver’s home, or another location…allowing for the location to change if the care recipient’s needs change); signatures by the parties; and the 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 your family requires the agreement to be.

A legal agreement template is available through nolo.com: https://store.nolo.com/ products/elder-care/elder-care-agreements

This article was reworked from a more extensive discussion of the topic at the Caregiver’s Alliance:https://www. caregiver.org/personal-care-agreements