Create a Formal Contract When Paying Relatives for Elder Care

According to the State of Missouri’s Office of Administration, our state’s elderly population has increased more consistently and proportionately than any other age group.  While Missouri residents age 65 and over represented only 10% of the population in 1950, by 2030 the Office of Administration predicts their numbers will represent more than 20% of all Missourians or approximately 1.4 million people.  Of those aged 65 and older, the fastest rising population are those 85-and-over.  In 1950, those aged 85 or older represented roughly 0.5% of the total population or 21,000 Missourians.  By 2000, the group had increased to 2% of the population or 99,000 Missourians.  By 2030, their numbers are predicted to exceed 2.5% of Missourians or approximately 176,000 people.

As a greater number of our Missouri population ages, the number of those requiring assistance from family members will likely rise as well.  A recent USA today report suggested that the number of caregivers who are family members jumped from 30% in 2010 to 39% in 2012 with most caregivers being between the ages of 30 and 64.  According to Philip Moeller writing for US News & World Report, some 65 million Americans provide more than $375 billion a year in uncompensated care to friends and family members.

The increase in family members as caregivers is not entirely a reflection of our economy and the lack of funds saved by the elderly.  Rather, some experts think it is a combination of factors including, but not limited to, longevity resulting from medical advancements.  Susannah Fox, the Associate Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project suggests that as medical advancements allow us to live longer, one negative result that occurs is that more and more of the elderly will outlive their personal savings and perhaps be discharged from hospitals and sent home in medically fragile conditions when their savings have been exhausted.

Missouri is not alone.  Other states are also dealing with this rapid increase in family member caregivers.  New York for example, counts over 4,000,000 of its citizens as family caregivers.  A 2013 report by the AARP and others suggested that those same NY family caregivers logged over 2.68 billion hours of family care giving in 2013.  This perfect storm of longevity and lacking funds leads me to believe the need for private, family-member care giving will continue on the rise for the near future in most states.

Unfortunately, as an increasing number of our elderly rely upon loved ones for daily assistance, an increasing number of complaints and disputes will likely arise concerning the value of those services and/or whether the services rendered are those that were expected or promised.  To address the potential for conflict, we suggest the formation of written agreements even when family members are providing services.  These written contracts between family members, also called personal service or personal care agreements, have many benefits, including providing the family member with some assurance that their tremendous amount of emotional, physical, and mental commitment will be rewarded.  At a minimum, the agreements should detail the parties involved, the fees and expenses to be paid, and the specific duties to be performed.  When possible, an elder law attorney should be involved in the process.  No matter how involved and dedicated a family caregiver is, caring for an elderly loved one will likely be exhausting and disagreements may occur.

Todd Miller is the Senior Partner of the Law Office of Todd Miller, LLC in Jefferson City, Missouri.  He has been recognized as Golf Tax Consultant of the Year by Boardroom Magazine three times and candidate for the “10 Best” attorneys for the State of Missouri by the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys and “10 Best” attorneys for the State of Missouri by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys.  Mr. Miller his juris doctorate degree from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1999.  Each Saturday at noon, he hosts a radio talk show entitled the “Mid-Missouri Legal Advocate” on KRMS News Talk 1150AM and 97.5FM at the Lake of the Ozarks.  You may also find him on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter.