Caring for an aging parent can be challenging. Unfortunately, many children are not prepared to become the caregiver. Generally, most families have not discussed the issues that arise when the roles reverse and their Mom and Dad become the ones that need supervision and care.
Often, the primary caregiver is chosen by default. This person lives the closest to the parents, may not have a full-time job, or is the oldest sibling. The caregiver begins making decisions for, and even with the parents to ensure they are healthy, happy, and have what they need. As the parents need more support, the caregiver may also become the dominant decision-maker role for the family in regards to caring for the senior.
Unfortunately, siblings and other family members may question the caregiver’s decisions and motives. The problem is that they are not with their parents each day to see their mental and physical health decline. As a result, they do not understand their parents’ needs or the challenges the caregiver faces when providing for their parents.
Sadly, tensions between siblings and other family members can grow, causing hurt feelings and accusations. The caregiver feels threatened, angry, and hurt. Siblings may feel left out, confused, and bitter. The tensions can cause stress and anxiety for the parents.
Poor communication is often the problem in these situations. However, family communication can resolve many of the issues that arise when caring for aging parents. Even though the entire family shares the common goal of ensuring their parents are happy, cared for, healthy, and at home, a lack of family communication means that no one is on the same page about making that happen.
A legal family agreement can resolve many issues that cause family discourse when caring for aging parents. In addition, care planning, management, and coordination keep everyone updated and working together to ensure Mom and Dad can continue to live independently in their home for as long as possible.
What Is a Legal Family Agreement?
A legal family agreement is often referred to as a personal care contract or a family caregiver agreement. The agreement is a written contract between a parent and a child or other family member. If you have siblings, the agreement generally includes your siblings and other family members that might participate in caring for your parents. Many of these agreements are used to compensate a family member for providing care so parents can remain at home.
Often, the person providing the care makes a significant sacrifice. They may give up their job or cut back on their work hours to provide care for their parents. A formal agreement provides a way to compensate this family member so that they do not incur financial hardship. The agreement also gives everyone the peace of mind that Mom and Dad will receive the care they need to remain at home.
If a family does not need nor want to compensate a specific family member for caring for aging parents, the family care agreement can provide for reimbursement of expenses and outline how the parents’ finances are to be managed.
When Does My Family Need to Prepare a Legal Family Agreement?
Ideally, a legal family agreement or personal care agreement should be drafted and executed before the parents need substantial care. Waiting until problems arise can make the process more difficult. Discussing potential issues and needs now gives parents and children time to decide how to tackle each issue.
Working on a legal family agreement now also avoids the anxiety, tension, and legal matters as families rush to “put out fires” when something happens that impacts their parents’ ability to care for themselves. The care agreement should be a part of the parent's estate plan.
What Should a Legal Family Agreement Include?
A personal care agreement or legal family agreement is a legally binding contract when executed according to your state's contract laws. The agreement should be in writing and contain all terms and agreements between the parents and children or other family members. A court can enforce the agreement.
If the agreement includes compensation for the caregiver, the compensation must be for future care. It must be reasonable. The services provided for compensation need to be clearly defined, including the number of hours each week the person provides services or care, the caregiver’s duties, and the duration of the agreement. Additionally, the agreement should have terms for extending the term and/or modifying the agreement.
Care planning, management, and coordination issues that families may want to consider include, but are not limited to:
- Compensation for caregivers
- Reimbursement for expenses
- The level of care required
- Paying bills, powers of attorney, and other financial considerations
- Health and medical decisions
- Communication with other family members
- Plans if placement in a long-term care facility becomes necessary
- Recording-keeping requirements
Families may want to consult a lawyer when drafting a family care plan, especially if the plan includes compensation for a family member. There could be one or more legal issues that could arise. Furthermore, the plan could impact a parent’s estate and tax planning.
Download our free care team responsibilities worksheet.
Using Tech Solutions to Improve Care Planning, Management, and Coordination
Tech solutions help with family communication by keeping everyone organized and informed about the parent’s health and care. Tech solutions include, but are not limited to:
- Remote monitoring systems like Livindi, include sensors that report wellness data that all family members can access remotely. These sensors, placed in key areas of the home can provide transparency and allow all family members to monitor a parent’s health and participate in medical decisions.
- Using virtual check-ins, including video calling and teleconferences, keeps everyone in the loop. Virtual check-ins also help combat isolation and loneliness for the parents.
- Remote monitoring using cameras allows children to “see” their parents and ensure safe surroundings.
- Using a communication network keeps all family members informed. In addition, it allows children to coordinate their schedules to ensure their parents have the support they need without causing an undue hardship for a specific child.
- Using a concierge service to provide additional services when children cannot be present is also helpful, especially for those caring from a distance. For example, the concierge service can be used to coordinate services such as grocery delivery, respite care or transportation Using a communication network allows children to discuss when to schedule a concierge service to fill in the gaps with care.
Home alarm systems and monitoring systems might be another option, depending on the parents' level of care. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to using technology to care for aging parents. The positive thing about tech solutions is that they continue to improve and expand to fit a variety of needs.
If you’d like to learn more about Livindi, give us a call at (508) 416-6030. You can order Livindi by visiting our shop page here: https://www.livindi.com/collections/all