Little by little, your parent or senior loved one’s care needs have grown and you can no longer balance providing the care they need with a full-time job or other responsibilities. You’d like to keep caregiving in the family but need to create a caregiver contract with your parents and siblings to set expectations and responsibilities.How to Create a Caregiver Contract

Where do you start?

A Caregiver Contract

A caregiver contract, also often called a personal care agreement, ensures that all family members are on the same page when it comes to a family caregiver’s responsibilities. A contract protects the person giving the most up to become a full-time caregiver and it can help families avoid future conflicts over care. Robert E. King, Esq. of Legally Nanny, states:

“These contracts are vital to avoid ambiguities which can create acrimony down the road.”

By making sure everyone is in agreement and by putting expectations and responsibilities into writing, you can stay on good terms with your parents and siblings throughout your parent or senior loved one’s illness and beyond.

Creating a Caregiver Contract

Here’s how to create an effective caregiver contract:

1. Begin the discussion.

First, everyone in the family needs to plan a time to talk. Strive to find a time when everyone can be involved and weigh in with their opinions on the subject (even if some attend over Skype).

Have an idea of the main points you want to discuss, for instance:

  • A calendar of care needs and when caregiving decisions need to be made
  • The cost of other types of senior care
  • The loved one’s specific care needs
  • Who’s available and willing to help in what ways

Expect this talk to take some time and don’t be surprised if there are disagreements or strong feelings. This is a tough subject all around as it forces everyone to face a parent or senior loved one’s declining health. Do your best to stay respectful throughout.

2. Consider a mediator.

Did your first discussion devolve into arguments or get too heated for you to make progress? That’s normal. Attorney Thomas J. Simeone explains:

“Having one member serve as a formal caretaker often brings out underlying familial issues, including competitiveness, favoritism, jealousy and the like.”

That’s part of why it’s important to have a caregiver contract to begin with, but it also means that you may need to bring in some unbiased help to settle the details. Look into elder and family mediators who are skilled at helping families work through exactly these types of issues. It could save you a lot of energy and time.

3. Consider an accountant.

Everyone involved in a caregiver contract needs to understand what it will mean for your finances in general and your tax situation specifically.

Set up an appointment with an accountant to discuss what you have in mind and see what recommendations they have.

Their advice can help guide you in the next steps.

4. Decide on the details.

This part is hard but likely to be easier if you’ve consulted with an accountant or mediator. Now you want to meet up again to get all the specifics figured out and in writing.

This should include:

  • Benefits: If the caregiver is leaving a job, then they’ll be giving up significant employment benefits. Discuss how to fairly handle health insurance costs, paid sick days and vacation time.
  • Compensation: Now figure out a reasonable rate to pay the full-time caregiver for the hours they’ll be working. This should be a rate that’s comparable to what professional caregivers are paid.
  • Dates: When will the duties outlined in the contract begin? Will you set an end date now or a date to revisit the terms to see if everyone still agrees?
  • Expenses: As the main person helping run errands and pick up prescriptions for your loved one, the caregiver is likely to incur expenses. Discuss and determine how the family will handle that as well.
  • Hours: This contract defines a job. You should include set hours for work and keep them realistic. How many hours a week will the primary caregiver be available to take care of your loved one? Which hours? Who steps in the rest of the time?
  • Payment terms: When will the caregiver be paid? Weekly on Fridays? Will it be by bank transfer, check or another method?
  • Responsibilities: “Caregiving” is a general term, but you want to lay out specifics here. Think in terms of the activities of daily living (ADLs) that are commonly used in the senior living industry to help define the level of need seniors have. Name the specific responsibilities as clearly as possible.

Obviously, you’ll also need to figure out here who will contribute how much money. How will the payments be divided between the senior loved one’s estate and the contributions of other family members?

You also need to make a plan now for what happens in the case of an emergency. King explains, “It is vital to have other family members agree to be back-up caregivers because emergencies that prevent the caregiver from working will arise.” Having a plan in place for that now will help you avoid future confusion and disputes.

During this step, put everything you agree to in writing. Having a document that you can all check in on and refer back to is crucial.

5. Discuss meeting with a lawyer.

It’s not always required to meet with an attorney to finalize a caregiver contract, but there are a lot of cases where it’s a worthwhile step to take. If you experienced much conflict in hashing out the details, then making sure the final document is officially recognized by everyone involved is important. Or if you could use additional input on how the contract affects something like future Social Security payments or tax liability, then a lawyer is a must.

In addition, if your loved one lacks the capacity to sign the agreement, then you’ll have to involve whoever has the Power of Attorney. If that person doesn’t agree with the terms, or if it’s the same person set to become the caregiver, then a lawyer can help you work out the issues that arise.

Creating a caregiver contract can be difficult, but taking the time to clarify the terms up front can save you all a lot of time and trouble down the line.

Have you had any experience creating a caregiver contract with your family? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.

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