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Caring for Mom or Dad: The Personal Care Agreement

Should a parent become unable to care for him- or herself, questions inevitably come up between siblings over care of their parent/s: where should the parent/s live – at home, or with which sibling – who should manage their parent’s money, who will assume primary care-giving duties. Should that sibling be paid?

A Personal Care Agreement (sometimes called a Personal Services Agreement) can be an effective way to avoid misunderstandings that could otherwise arise.

According to an article, “How to Prepare a Home Care Agreement With a Family Member,” Joseph L. Matthews, http://www.caring.com/articles/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.”

A Personal Care Agreement, “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.”

Developing a Personal Care Agreement not only helps to avoid family conflicts by laying out who will provide necessary care and how it will be paid for. By focusing the family on the need to make arrangements for their parent/s, many potential conflicts can be identified and resolved before they become problems.

Finally, long term care insurance may provide for such care if there is a formal, reasonable agreement.

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