Most geriatric care managers will recognize the following scenario:

Mr. and Mrs. K. are in their early 90s and live alone in their own home. Mrs. K. Is physically frail but cognitively intact following a stroke and requires assistance with bathing, dressing, medication management, meal preparation, groceries and toileting. Mr. K. has mild-to-moderate dementia, macular degeneration, and prostate problems and requires on-going supervision and cuing to complete tasks.

They have three children: daughter, Mary, provides assistance daily from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and one son, Mike, does all of the financial management tasks. A third son lives out of the area but does provide emotional support. Mary had been working part time as a school occupational therapist but has given up her job to care for her parents. The family had been unhappy with the care they each received during stays in rehabilitation facilities, and they are committed to keeping their parents home as long as possible.

Mary and Mike meet with an elder law attorney seeking guidance regarding estate planning and also speak openly about Mary’s need for some income and respite. They want to understand other community care options for which the K’s may be eligible. Mr. and Mrs. K. have stated that they understand what Mary has sacrificed, and they want to compensate her.

As elder care has become more complex, families are doing more and, combined with a sagging economy, more and more families are considering compensation for care that they or other family members provide to elderly loved ones. In addition, care recipients want more control in choosing their care providers. States such as Massachusetts and others recognize the wish for consumer-directed care and have initiated programs to support this. The Personal Care Assistant (PCA) program and Caregiver Homes, both here in Massachusetts, provide state funds to allow recipients to either hire their own caregivers or for caregivers to be paid for care that they are providing. Care providers can be family members other than spouses or persons legally responsible to provide care, such as parents of minor children or legal guardians.

If the states are paying family members to provide care to loved ones, why shouldn’t elders privately enter into similar arrangements with family members? This article will review family care or personal service contracts, explore the supporting assessment and valuation of services, and discuss the collaborative possibilities for geriatric care managers and elder law attorneys. Contracts are legal documents. Given the space constraints, all of the potential legal issues will not be discussed, and readers are advised to obtain legal counsel before proceeding with a personal care contract on behalf of a client.

What is a family care contract? It is an agreement between two people, the provider of the services and the recipient of services, which defines the services to be provided and the compensation to be paid. Contracts are recommended because they clarify the expectations of both parties as to the care to be provided, the responsibilities of the caregiver, and the compensation to be paid. It also provides documentation for other family members to avoid misunderstandings, especially when estates are settled after the death of the elder. These contracts may also be used to document that payments to caregivers are wages, not gifts, if there is a Medicaid application in the future. Contracts may be initiated by the attorney, the care manager during the course of work with a family, the caregiver, the caregiver’s family, or the care recipient.

What is the role of the geriatric care manager in family care contracts? Because the contract must describe the services to be provided and the price to be paid, it should be based on a professional assessment which describes

* the care recipient’s current situation – a narrative description of the client’s situation and background, the family response, the need for services and how they have been provided to date. This is the place for the GCM to tell the client’s and caregiver’s story.

* the care recipient’s functional capacity to perform ADLs and IADLs – assessments should break these out in some detail.

* how services are provided and by whom, including how much time that it takes to perform these services, and whether tasks are shared with others.

* the costs to the caregiver including financial, time, health, lifestyle changes.

* the valuation of the services provided using local cost comparisons – assessments may offer several different models to consider (hourly, daily, weekly costs; live-in versus awake/overnight; agency vs. private rates); this is probably the most important piece of the assessment as it is used to set the compensation in the contract.

Advocare Care Management is a Senior Advocacy and private Care Management company in South Florida. We work with you, so things are not as difficult in caring for an aging loved one. We give you the resources, advice, tools, and assessments so you can help them. We are available 24 hours a day including weekends, holidays, and evenings. We cover all of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. Contact Advocare Care Management and see why we are the preeminent place to obtain the support and services you need to effectively care for a loved one.

Reprinted with permission from Contact Advocare Care Management today.