The Importance of Caregiver Contracts

Community // January 13, 2016

Caregiving is something that affects many individuals as their loved ones come into a situation of needing full-time care. More often than not, children or other family members become the care providers for their parents or loved ones.

While many are well aware of caregiving and related issues such as the emotional costs that must be addressed as a caregiver, the idea of caregiver contracts is much less known or discussed. With an estimated 40 million Americans taking care of their family members who fall ill to cancers like mesothelioma, other illnesses, or simply old age, caregiver contracts need to become a larger part of the conversation.

What Are Caregiver Contracts?

Caregiver contracts are simply written agreements between the patient and caregiver. They are also called personal care agreements, long term care personal support services agreements, family care contracts, or adult and senior/elder care contracts. The agreement, which should be treated as a legal document, establishes important aspects of the caregiving relationship, including expected tasks, compensation (if any), etc. Tasks include things like personal care, grocery shopping, meal preparation, housekeeping, medical billing, and more.

While most caregivers end up being family members who dedicate their time and resources to caring for their loved one, the relationship is still, in a sense, a job. As is the case with any job, it’s important to outline the details of the working relationship in writing in order to avoid potential problems.

Why Do You Need One?

Generally speaking, caregiver contracts provide security and peace of mind to both parties. In addition to establishing the expected caregiver duties, these contracts can help avoid family conflicts regarding responsibility and clarify financial authority and delegation.

Without a contract like this, it can be unclear to other involved parties, such as other relatives and health care providers, who is responsible for the patient’s various care-related needs. When treated as a legal document, they can help qualify the patient for government programs like Medicaid. Without this document, the patient can be disqualified from Medicaid.

What Should It Look Like?

While contracts may vary widely depending on a host of factors, the basic elements of a caregiver contract include the following:

  • Care start date
  • Flexible frequency of services (e.g., “Minimum of 15 hours a week”)
  • Detailed description of care services
  • Amount and frequency of compensation
  • Agreement duration (can specify “lifetime” if that’s the case)
  • A clause stating that the agreement can be updated only if both parties agree in writing
  • Location of services
  • Signatures of patient and caregiver
  • Date of the agreement

A sample contract and more information can be found here.