Can you be liable for your parent's nursing home costs? Maybe. A central issue when dealing with a nursing home is the nursing home agreement. Unfortunately, clients usually come to my office after they’ve already situated their parent or loved one in a nursing care facility without reading the nursing home agreement and are not as informed as they should be about its contents.
The Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA) disallows skilled nursing homes from requiring a guarantee of payment before your mother is admitted. However, courts have held that a third-party guarantor can be liable in certain situations. The following are situations in which a court held a third party liable. Consider these the cautionary “don’ts” when dealing with a nursing home agreement.
- Don’t Agree to Help Qualify for Medicaid. A son, who held a power of attorney, signed as an agent but told the nursing home that he would assist them in getting his mother qualified for Medicaid by spending down her money. He did not do what he had orally agreed to do, and the son was thus liable for the payments.
- Don’t Withhold Income from a Nursing Home. An agent of a power of attorney withheld the monthly income of the resident. You can be held personally liable for withholding monthly income from a nursing facility.
- Don’t Sign as a “Responsible Party”. An agent signed as a responsible party, and, because of her actions, the mother ended up not being eligible for Medicaid.
- Don’t Sign a Promissory Note. A woman was Medicaid- eligible when she went into the nursing home, then she became ineligible for a period of time. The home incurred $13,000 in costs; the son subsequently signed a promissory note for that amount in his capacity as a power of attorney. Ultimately, the mother’s estate was liable for the cost.
When it comes to assisting your mother with a nursing home or assisted living facility, the protocol is pretty simple: Do not lie to the nursing home. Disclose everything. In addition, sign only as a power of attorney and never as a responsible party. Also, do not withhold your mother’s assets from the facility if they are not getting paid. If you are ever worried about making a misstep, consult with an elder law attorney.