Could you be responsible for your parent’s nursing home bill?

Written by Natalie C. Lashway | nlashway@farr.com
Attorney Natalie C. Lashway Family Law Attorney

Natalie C. Lashway, Attorney
Natalie’s practice focuses on marital & family law, elder law and civil litigation.

A recent case in Louisiana highlights this very issue.  In that case, a stepson assisted his stepfather in getting admitted into a nursing home.  During the admission process, the nursing home asked the stepson to sign Medicare documents that would make him personally responsible for any expenses not covered by Medicare.  The stepson refused to sign the documents.  The stepson was also presented with an admission agreement.  The admission agreement named the stepfather as the responsible party for any bills.  The stepson told the nursing home employee that presented the agreement that he would not agree to be personally responsible for any bills for his stepfather.  As his stepfather’s agent pursuant to a power of attorney, however, the stepson signed the admission agreement and circled the option below his signature as “Authorized Agent and/or health care surrogate.”  Nonetheless, the stepson’s vigilant efforts were not enough to prevent the nursing home from suing him for unpaid bills of his stepfather.  After incurring any necessary attorney’s fees and costs involved in defending the lawsuit, the stepson finally did win when the court decided that he never agreed to be personally responsible for his stepfather’s nursing home bill. Oftentimes, when a person is in need of assisted living or nursing home care, a child or other loved one steps up to help.  During the admission process, the assisted living facility or nursing home may ask the child or loved one to sign paperwork.  It is critical that any person assisting another during admission into an assisted living facility or nursing home be very cautious with regard to paperwork he or she signs.  No one should sign a document unless he or she reads and understands it.  No one other than the elderly person being admitted should agree to be responsible for the bill, unless he or she knowingly and intentionally does so.