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Her only child, my husband, died 10 years ago. She is 91 in a wheelchair, lives at home alone and pays a woman to help her. She is declining and may need to go into nh, she has small savings to pay for it for awhile and would likely need to go on medicaid. She thinks I'm her family but I'm not really related to her and I'm afraid they will come after me to pay for it. I'm 70 and need to look out for myself. I'm not uncaring about her, but this is one aspect about it I'm worried about. I live out of state about 2 hours away from her, usually try to visit sometimes. I read horror stories about nh sueing children of residents for payment. I'm not really her child but I'm all she has and will probably be listed as family. I have never contributed financially to her. What should I do to protect myself?

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Betty, you will not be responsible for any of her bills. Be sure not to sign anything that states you will be responsible. If something is questionable, run it past your attorney before signing it. It seems she is still mentally competent, so she should be able to sign everything for herself. That will be a big help if you help her with her Medicaid paperwork.

If you don't sign anything saying you'll pay and your MIL doesn't bequeath any hidden resources to you, then you don't have to worry. Neither the NH or other creditors can make you pay anything. If they were to call, it would be trickery on their part. You don't owe a thing for your MIL's care.
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Thank you for your response. She did make me medical POA and put me as poa on her bank acct, but I've never used it. She writes her own checks if needed, but most of her bills are auto drafted. She has savings, but her only income is SS. No, I have never gone with her to a doctor. I usually visit on a Sat afternoon about 3 times a year and sometimes talk on the phone, not a close relationship. I'm still working, not yet retired. The woman helping her was coming by as needed to take her to doctor, buy groceries, a little cleaning, etc.. About 6 weeks ago she fell (was using a walker then), was put in rehab for 2 weeks and insisted on going back home. The woman is now staying there 24/7 because I was told Dr said she can't be alone. Don't know how long that can continue. She is paying the woman and it's now becoming very expensive. She has no other relatives and her friends are all gone. I'm not familiar with her town and don't really know what to do and neither does my son. No, I realistically can't be that involved. But she thinks I should. My concern is if she does go to a nh, they will look to me as family and expect me to be there frequently when I can't really handle it. No, she has never contributed anything to me or my son. We don't expect it either.
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I'm sorry that your husband died 10 years ago and it sounds like you are all that your MIL has that is left of her family. It is very nice that you are concerned about your MIL. She must feel close to you as her DIL to view you as her family.

Who is managing her money? How much of each day is the woman there to help her? Has your MIL designated you as her durable and medical POA?

I don't think the nursing home would come after you since you are not directly next of kin. I would not sign anything that committed you to paying for her being in the nursing home. If you are her Durable POA and are not comfortable managing her payments of the nursing home using her money and working on the medicaid application process for her continuing to stay in the nursing home, then you may want to see a lawyer about resigning as her durable and medical POA and request that she become a ward of the state so that they can manage her situation. I think nursing homes can file for a resident to become a ward of the state.

Have you taken or gone with her to see her doctor lately? What has been his/her evaluation of her overall situation?

Does the doctor say she needs to go to a nursing home? If so, who is going to find a nursing home for her that will accept medicaid when she goes on it at some point?

I believe once she is in a nursing home that the social worker will help with the medicaid application process, but that will involve some work on someone's part in helping with the five year look back into MIL's finances that medicaid will do.

Can you realistically be that involved? You do live in another state 2 hours away and need to take care of yourself at 70. Does she have any other relatives or friends who can get involved at this point?

You have a lot to consider here and I look forward to hearing back from you and hearing your progress in this journey.
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There are two sides to every horror story. In cases where the NH sued, it was revealed that the patient transferred money and property to the children in large amounts. The children then attempted to dump mom on Medicaid.
In the famous case of Pittas vs HCRC, the son did just that. The Judge was very unhappy that the son would not answer questions under oath and awarded $93,000 to the nursing home.
Whether you contributed to her is not the critical question, but whether she contributed to you.
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