Can my dad's nursing home come after me for payments, when his money runs out?

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He is not my dependent.

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Anytime you sign a contract on behalf of another person be very careful how you sign it. For instance, I was a conservator for my uncle. I was instructed by my attorney to sign my name as conservator of my uncle (his name). For my father, I sign my name as "Power of Attorney" or " Health Director/Directive of my father ( his name). You do not want to become financially responsible for the person you are trying to look after. Therefore, speak to an attorney in your area on how to protect yourself financially while trying to assist your loved one. This is especially necessary when your loved one is no longer competent, can not sign legal documents and you have to sign your name on their behalf.
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Unfortunately, the filial responsibility laws are being enforced. Please see an attorney, it will be money well spent.
Son Liable for Mom's $93,000 Nursing Home Bill Under 'Filial Responsibility' Law


Some 29 states currently have laws making adult children responsible for their parents if their parents can't afford to take care of themselves. These “filial responsibility” laws have rarely been enforced, but six years ago when federal rules made it more difficult to qualify for Medicaid long-term care coverage, some elder law attorneys predicted that nursing homes would start using the laws as a way to get care paid for.

It looks like this is starting to happen. In May 2012, a Pennsylvania appeals court found a son liable for his mother's $93,000 nursing home bill under the state's filial responsibility law. Health Care & Retirement Corporation of America v. Pittas (Pa. Super. Ct., No. 536 EDA 2011, May 7, 2012). In March 2013 the state's Supreme Court declined to hear the case, meaning that the ruling is final.

Facts of the Case

John Pittas' mother entered a nursing home for rehabilitation following a car crash. She later left the nursing home and moved to Greece, and a large portion of her bill at the nursing home went unpaid. Mr. Pittas' mother applied to Medicaid to cover her care, but that application is still pending.

Meanwhile, the nursing home sued Mr. Pittas for nearly $93,000 under the state's filial responsibility law, which requires a child to provide support for an indigent parent. The trial court ruled in favor of the nursing home, and Mr. Pittas appealed. Mr. Pittas argued in part that the court should have considered alternate forms of payment, such as Medicaid or going after his mother's husband and her two other adult children.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court, an appeals court, agreed with the trial court that Mr. Pittas is liable for his mother's nursing home debt. The court held that the law does not require it to consider other sources of income or to wait until Mrs. Pittas’s Medicaid claim is resolved. It also said that the nursing home had every right to choose which family members to pursue for the money owed.

First of a ‘Wave of Lawsuits’?

The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 made it much more difficult for the elderly to transfer assets before qualifying for Medicaid coverage of nursing home care. With enactment of the law, advocates for the elderly said that nursing homes would likely be flooded with residents who need care but have no way to pay for it, and that in states that have filial responsibility laws, the nursing homes might seek reimbursement from the residents' children.

After Pennsylvania re-enacted its filial support law in the mid-2000s, Williamsport ElderLawAnswers member attorney Jeffrey A. Marshall forecast that the new Medicaid law would trigger a wave of lawsuits involving adult children.

"Litigation between nursing homes and children is likely to flourish," Marshall wrote in the January 20, 2006, issue of his firm's Elder Care Law Alert. (To read Marshall’s recent blog post on the Pittas ruling, click here.)

In 2005, the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative policy group, released an issue brief proposing that states begin enforcing filial responsibility laws in order to reduce long-term care costs.
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Striper, would he be open to another arrangement, such as a senior citizen apartment building? Some of them have meals available as well. This was the first step with my aunt. Next came Adult Day Care or if he's functioning well cognitively possibly even a Senior Center with activities and a nutrition program. If he is a veteran, he may qualify for assistance with paying for the Day Care ... they can be quite costly. Senior Centers are usually free or something nearly free, like $10 per year.
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Striper, you're getting lots of help with your Medicaid question. I'd like to suggest you keep him at home as long as possible, since that is what he wants. There are many 'helps' out there for him. He can get in-home help with personal hygiene and housework. We used Home Instead, but there are many companies who offer this service. They will do laundry, cook, vacuum, play board games to engage him, talk, listen, and help with/encourage bathing. Also, as he ages be prepared for him to be open to things that may have been out of the question before. When the choice is an ALF or in-home help, he may choose -in-home help. I would look in to a panic button, too. Your Dad would wear a button he can push if he needs help and can't reach the phone. The service will call you, if you like, or whatever you tell them to do. Adult day care is an option in many areas. Meals-on-Wheels or going to the local community center for a meal might help keep him social. Good luck and God bless.
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This topic is also so helpful for my situation with my 93yr old Dad. He lives alone in his home, does fairly well, though has some mobility issues and uses a walker. Neighbors and friends check on him regularly. After much resistance he finally agreed to an agency to help, so a woman comes in one day a week for only 3 hours. It's a start and even that little bit makes such a difference.

I'm concerned for if/when he can't walk anymore and needs a NH or Ass Living. He has only SS and a small Shell pension and no other assets. The house was reversed mortgaged years ago, so he doesn't even have that. I'm the only child and live out of state. I too wondered if I would be responsible for his debts.
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In my opinion, "yes".
I'd suggest you do a headline search for 'Son Liable for Mom's $93,000 Nursing Home Bill Under 'Filial Responsibility' Law'. At least 29 states have laws making adult children responsible for their parents if their parents can't afford to take care of themselves. Previously, “filial responsibility” laws have rarely been enforced.
In May 2012, a Pennsylvania appeals court found a son liable for his mother's $93,000 nursing home bill under the state's filial responsibility law. [Note: Health Care & Retirement Corporation of America v. Pittas (Pa. Super. Ct., No. 536 EDA 2011, May 7, 2012].
Very simply, John Pittas' mother entered a nursing home for rehabilitation following a car crash. After recovering, she left the nursing home, moving to Greece. She then applied to Medicaid to cover her care. (I'm not sure how or if this was ever resolved. Regardless, the nursing home sued her son Mr. Pittas for $93,000 under the state's filial responsibility law, which requires a child to provide support for an indigent parent.
In my opinion, the bottom line is that I foresee this case is "the tip of the iceberg". It is the beginning of a wave (of Tsunami proportions) of nursing home filing lawsuits to recover unpaid nursing home bills from the children of parents who can't pay their nursing home bills.

Allan
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Striper, is it possible since he is still able to care for himself that he might be open to a social worker coming in. It sounds to me like he may be depressed and looking for some control in his life since he knows that he's losing. My mom is the same way what we seen as being difficult may be (his way, and my mom's way :) to stay in control of their life. In the long run if there is someone who is not (the kid) whom he builds trust in that can help you when it's time for the transition to a NH. just food for thought.
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Thank you very much ... everyone here is so helpful. I'm sorry you're going through this with your Aunt as well. What if we start the process, and it's too soon? His situation certainly seemed more dire on the day he went into the hospital - and now he's back home with visiting nurse. He CAN do things for himself, but chooses not to. He chooses not to follow any diet, takes his meds when he wants to, STILL SMOKES ... ugh. He could be doing so much better, but chooses not to. So, I don't really want him in a facility, and he really shouldn't need to be there, but I fear it will come to that. So when do you know it's the right time to actually start?
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Striper, I'm in NJ also, although my experience is with my aunt, not a parent. I have been going through the Medicaid process for over a year, so start it soon! My aunt had to be place in a nursing home a few months ago and I made sure to write on top of a page of financial responsibility I AM NOT FINANCIALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR _____________ I am her POA and there are many unscrupulous NHs out there that will try to trick you into paying or try to convince you that you are responsible. You might also want to check into Global Options which is a Medicaid plan that will allow your dad to live in Assisted Living ... because a NH is a rough place to be unless he really needs that level of physical assistance. Many facilities will accept patients as "Medicaid Pending". Still others will only accept Medicaid if you are able to private pay for the first $100,000 or so.
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Thank you very much, DGinGA!! Everyone here is so helpful and it really is comforting to know that other families are experiencing similar things. (not that I want other people to go through this!) The info on NH vs. rehab is helpful. He did go into rehab 2 years ago after bypass surgery, and because he's so stubborn and unwilling to do anything, he had to stay longer, because he wasn't improving. Then, they discharged him because he wasn't making any effort and he was at the end of his full Medicare coverage (it was going to go to 80/20 ... I think he had a few days that AARP had to make up for the reduced Medicare coverage.)

thanks again ... :)
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