A caregiver for someone who needs help often sacrifices a lot. Most commonly, the caregiver sacrifices the capacity to keep a job and employment benefits. A formal agreement among family members can offer a way to compensate a caregiver if they’re no longer able to hold other employment. It can be key to your long-term care planning strategy. Even though most family members want to help and feel a sense of duty to care for a relative, the heavy time commitments and responsibilities involved make it impossible for most. One way of protecting the caregiver as well as the person receiving care is by putting the care relationship in writing.
What is a Personal Care Agreement (PCA)?
A personal care agreement (PCA) is a contract, typically between a family member who agrees to provide caregiver services (the caregiver) for a disabled or aging relative and the person receiving care (the care recipient). The personal care agreement is usually between an adult child and their parent, but other relatives may be involved, such as an adult grandchild caring for a grandparent.
Drawing up an agreement clarifies 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.
Basic Components of a Personal Care Agreement
There are a minimum of three basic requirements for a PCA:
- The agreement must be in writing.
- The payment must be for care provided in the future—not for services already performed.
- Compensation for care must be reasonable. This means it should not be more than the cost for a paid caregiver from a local home care agency.
Other components should include:
- Date the care begins.
- A detailed description of services that should be provided (for example, food preparation, transportation, and errands such as driving to medical, dental, and other appointments).
- Frequency of services provided, whether daily, weekly, or monthly.
- Flexibility in care needs by using language such as “no less than 20 hours per week.”
- The place where the services will be provided.
- Compensation amount for the caregiver and payment schedule.
- If the caregiver is to live with the care recipient, there should be details on whether room and board will be provided as part of the compensation. If they won’t, there should be details on how living expenses like room and board, utilities, mortgage, insurance, taxes, and others will be divided.
- Duration of the agreement, whether one year, two years, or over a person’s lifetime.
- A statement that the terms of the agreement can be modified only by written mutual agreement.
- Signatures of the parties, including the Power of Attorney for the person with dementia and date of agreement.
How a PCA Can Affect Eligibility for Medicaid
Medicaid may pay for long-term care costs for people with limited income and assets. To qualify for Medicaid, a care receiver’s spending and assets are subject to a “look-back” period of up to five years. This is sometimes called the asset “spend down.” If a care receiver needs to enter a facility or apply for other services that Medicaid might pay for, a PCA can show that
care payments were a legitimate expense and not an attempt to hide assets by giving cash to family members. The care receiver is paying for the “value” of personal care services. Without a caregiver contract in place, Medicaid could deem payments to a family caregiver as gifts, which could delay an individual’s Medicaid eligibility. That’s why the caregiver needs to keep an accurate log of which services they provide and when, as well as a log of any payments they receive.
Legal and Tax Implications of a PCA
A properly executed PCA is a legally binding contract when it complies with applicable laws and regulations. It outlines the obligations and expectations of both parties and can serve as a legal document in case of disputes or questions regarding caregiving services.
In terms of tax implications, classifying the caregiver is key. Whether a caregiver can be classified as an employee or an independent contractor for tax purposes depends on factors like the degree of control, independence, and the nature of the caregiving relationship. Classifying the caregiver wrongly can have legal and financial consequences, so it’s crucial to get it right. That’s where an experienced elder care attorney can make a difference.
How an Experienced Elder Law Attorney Can Help
The legal and tax implications of a PCA include payment details. As noted above, your contract should detail whether payments happen on a weekly or other pay-as-you-go basis or whether a lump sum payment will be made to cover future care for the remainder of a care recipient’s lifetime. If the lump sum is agreed upon, it can involve a large amount of money, so it must be done carefully to avoid it backfiring as a gift. For this reason and many others, it may be wise to consult on the details with a reputable elder law attorney who has Medicaid planning expertise.
Get In Touch With an Elder Law Attorney
For help with personal care arrangement planning in Washington, you should reach out to the elder law attorneys at Legacy Law Group in Eastern Washington, Spokane Valley, and Spokane itself. Contact us at (509) 315-8087 today to get started.